I had to keep taking deep breaths, in and out, as I read this book, such was the seething energy of it. It knocked me sideways. Of course it did. These are stories that bolt out of their stall. There’s no way to tell them quietly. Still, there must be a calmness, a steeliness to the way they are handled, and Hogan has this in spades. “No one can give anyone a voice,” she asserts. “Space must be made for voices to be heard.” So, she stands aside and listens.
The best chapter is based on transcripts of an interview recorded by a former worker in a home in Tuam, Co Galway, which is a place notorious for children’s bodies having been interred in what seems to have been a collective and unmarked grave. This woman gives a spirited account of the indignities to which she and the residents (penitents, they were called) were subjected and her attempts at escape. As she observes, the nuns who ran the place did not serve God so much as Galway county council.