Friday, 14 March 2014

Home Fires ; a survivor's Story - Shivaun Woolfson



"Home Fires" is the moving and often shocking story of a passionate and fiercely intelligent woman. Growing up in 1960s Dublin in a wealthy Jewish family, Shivaun survives the physical abuse of a beautiful and damaged mother and the relentless control of a domineering father. Desperate to belong, she abandons her Jewish roots and falls in love with a Catholic musician, the bass player of an up-and-coming band called "The Boomtown Rats". When he goes to London, leaving Shivaun behind, she flees her family, her home and her country to seek comfort among the followers of an Indian guru. At 21, still haunted by her past, Shivaun goes to Miami and marries a handsome refugee, straight off the boat from Cuba. But Julio is a womaniser and drug dealer and Shivaun soon becomes embroiled in Miami's seedy underworld. Eight months pregnant, she finds herself in prison, her chances of ever gaining US citizenship ruined. After Julio is sent down for trafficking, Shivaun falls for another man, who subjects her and her sons to terrifying violence. Finally, she walks away and, alone with two small boys, she fights back, eventually earning respect as a mother, a scholar and community activist. For the first time, she also discovers meaningful love and is then, at last, able to begin plotting her journey home.


She is three years old and sleep in a conservatory beside her sister Roberta, an angelic, autistic child with loose brown curls that frame sad eyes. The mother is young and speaks like a grand duchess. She likes to dance, or ride horses, to paint. She has a deep guttural laugh that surprises with its vulgarity. She has chopping, reckless eyes. She loves clothes. She is elegant and flirtatious. She is going insane.

The father hard – working and studious. He speaks fluent Gaelic and is the first in his family to graduate from university. He is a brilliant young barrister with a prosperous future, but opts instead to work for his father in a flock factory down by the docks. He wears the same suit every day. He travels by train through the night, to save money on the B&Bs, to Germany, to Spain, to Italy, in search of new business. He is determined to create  a fairy tale, to turn that factory into gold.

The young wife can’t cope with her autistic child. Nana, her own mother, arrives each morning to help her bathe and dress and feed her daughter. Roberta dies before her fourth birthday. Five days later, Nana passes away. The young mother is never the same.



She is told that her sister died during an operation to straighten her legs. Thereafter, Roberta’s room remains intact, her clothes and plaything untouched. It is forbidden space. Even as a child, she knows that she lives in a house haunted by loss.