In Ordinary Time

Fragments of a Family History

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Pub Date 02 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 19 Jan 2023

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Description

A multi-layered exploration of trauma, time, memory, grief and addiction that will captivate readers of Notes to Self, Constellations and A Ghost in the Throat

___________________

In 1993, aged twenty, Carmel Mc Mahon left Ireland for New York, carrying $500, two suitcases and a ton of unseen baggage. It took years, and a bitter struggle with alcohol addiction, to unpick the intricate traumas of her past and present.

Candid yet lyrical, In Ordinary Time mines the ways that trauma reverberates through time and through individual lives, drawing connections to the events and rhythms of Ireland’s long Celtic, early Christian and Catholic history. From tragically lost siblings to the broader social scars of the Famine and the Magdalene Laundries, Mc Mahon sketches the evolution of a consciousness – from her conservative 1970s upbringing to 1990s New York, and back to the much-changed Ireland of today.

A multi-layered exploration of trauma, time, memory, grief and addiction that will captivate readers of Notes to Self, Constellations and A Ghost in the Throat

___________________

In 1993, aged twenty...


Advance Praise

'Stunning. A work of great emotional and intellectual heft, about how familial trauma and the collective past suffering of a nation can engender the nameless psychic pain of the individual. Truth and honesty shine out of every line’

Mary Costello, author of Academy Street


‘Beautiful, compelling, thought-provoking… Mc Mahon draws us a kind of map for our broken hearts. She knows that, even in unflinching personal stories like hers, the past has lessons for all of us. An uncompromising reflection on what it means to be of Irish heritage today, whether at home or abroad’

Tara Flynn


In Ordinary Time is painfully familiar in its account of family loss and trauma in the urban working class, and personal enough never to feel like a survey or aerial view of Irish women’s history. Sensitively written and quietly devastating, it’s the book I had been waiting for — the darker shadow twin of Marian Keyes’ Rachel’s Holiday

Niamh Campbell, award-winning author of This Happy

'Stunning. A work of great emotional and intellectual heft, about how familial trauma and the collective past suffering of a nation can engender the nameless psychic pain of the individual. Truth and...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780715654477
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 8 members


Featured Reviews

IN ORDINARY TIME is an adept and emotionally evocative narrative that interweaves personal memoir, genealogy, and Irish cultural history to examine generational trauma. Are our miseries destined because of genetics? Can we escape grief if our ancestors couldn't escape it themselves? Mc Mahon never asks for pity when detailing the horrible sadness she and her family have endured, both past and present. ORDINARY TIME is a family's intimate history. Still, it's also a fiercely political work that examines how capitalism and colonialism are often to blame when considering how we cope in a world built on oppression and violence. Truly a gem of a read: thought-provoking, tender, and intelligent.

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An interesting memoir about McMahon’s life as a recovering alcoholic, and her move from Dublin to New York. This also deals with her family history, particularly the tragedies surrounding the life of one of her siblings, and his mental illness.

This is thought-provoking in that it deals with Irish history as well - especially towards the end of the book.

I wasn’t sure how McMahon managed to live in New York and what she did for work - she doesn’t really deal with such things, perhaps eschewing details in favour of other experiences.

Thank you to Net Galley for the ARC.

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I certainly will be on the lookout for future writing by Carmel McMahon. Several times her sentences reminded me of a stone skipping over water...graceful and ongoing. This is an extremely personal book but not quite a memoir. The theme, in my perception, is grief, loss, and the effect parent's traumas have on children even if the children weren't born at the time of the event. The latter belief is becoming more widely researched, although it's still mostly anecdotal. Bessel van der Kolk has been writing for years about this, most recently in his best-selling The Body Keeps the Score which the author cites. McMahon's mother suffered a tragedy while pregnant with the author who has come to wonder if somehow she took the mother's pain into her own body. Not hard to believe, but one must also recognize the sense of tragedy that overhung the family throughout the childhoods of eight McMahon children, six of whom were younger than the author. The children fully sensed things that triggered the mother's desperate sadness and did their best to protect her from any reminders. So, yes, it is very possible that they came into the world with an imprint of tragedy that was reinforced by the atmosphere in their home.
The author also beautifully explores the possible imprints of long-ago ancestors with their embodiment of the Celtic experience of nature and the meaning of life. I particularly liked the description of the Irish measurement of time and seasons before the imposition of Greenwich Mean Time. I also loved McMahon's exploration of St. Brigid and her beliefs and practices...and it's no wonder Irish women especially are devoted to her.
The author's siblings have struggled with alcoholism, depression, and, in once case, severe mental illness. Her experiences with the first two are a central theme of the book. She wonders how much is DNA or prenatal effects or growing up in a sad family. I think: all of them. The Irish have retained a sense of the mystical and a perception of "thin places" which may have existed in other old cultures but have been lost. I can't be objective. My own Irish family is very like the author's and some still believe strongly in the presence and guidance of ancestors and the ineffable energies that are so hard to hear and feel in our loud modern society.
Readers who are recently bereaved or suffering a strong sense of loss from whatever source may consider postponing reading this excellent book. The author"s experiences are palpable, and I, for one, had to take breaks here and there.
I hope Ms. McMahon will bless us with more writing about her life. She is a gifted communicator and artist.

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Will be recommending this book wholeheartedly, it‘s one of those treasures I read in digital form and feel like I need a physical copy of to put on a shelf, to thumb through every now and then to remind myself what it meant at the time reading and what continues to mean.

History is so much more than dates and facts - and this memoir feels like that exact „so much more“.

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In 1993, aged twenty, Carmel Mc Mahon left Ireland for New York, carrying $500, two suitcases and a ton of unseen baggage. It took years, and a bitter struggle with alcohol addiction, to unpick the intricate traumas of her past and present.
Candid yet lyrical, In Ordinary Time mines the ways that trauma reverberates through time and through individual lives, drawing connections to the events and rhythms of Ireland’s long Celtic, early Christian and Catholic history. From tragically lost siblings to the broader social scars of the Famine and the Magdalene Laundries, Mc Mahon sketches the evolution of a consciousness – from her conservative 1970s upbringing to 1990s New York, and back to the much-changed Ireland of today.

Was this review helpful?

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