CHANGELING

Reviewed by Rita Honan, Senior Lecturer, Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Trinity College Dublin

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Changeling is an intimate journey into the world of Jean, a loving, single (by choice) mother, struggling with her fears emanating from a seldom alluded-to but chronically present abusive past and the unusual development of her beautiful baby. Melissa creates an eeriness in her matter-of-fact and at times comical glimpses into her character’s life in rural Ireland (although she could be anywhere). There is a sense of hovering over her and at times being inside her head. In fact, this is what she too does with her baby. She fluently weaves together a fascination with the universe, with understanding and accepting herself and her child, and questions about ordinary things perceived in extraordinary ways! These parallel her search, which is acute at times, for external causes for adverse circumstances, while craving personal control. Hers is a world where one falls ‘up’, rather than down! She innovatively ascribes human attributes to the inanimate. The critical role of ‘mothering’ and the tremendous emotional challenge of the early days of parenting a child with a disability are conveyed by seamlessly moving back and forth between her own childhood and the present, where she struggles to maintain sanity threatened by intrusive thoughts. Changeling is not only a very private narrative to which we’re allowed to join in and observe, but also an amazing literary accomplishment.

CHANGELING, by Melissa Diem. Gill and Macmillan, Dublin (2004). ISBN 0-8181-3830-9, €9.99.

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