Last week saw the publication of Cynthia Rogerson’s memoir, Wah! I was already familiar with Cynthia’s writing, having previously read her novel Wait for Me, Jack, published as Addison Jones. Having read and reviewed that book a few years ago I was interested to discover more about this authors life, and was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy to find out.
In the opening pages of the book, we discover that Cynthia’s mother, Barbara, is dying, meaning she is often called back to Scotland to visit her on her deathbed. With her mother’s deteriorating health, and the uncertainty surrounding how long she will still be around, Cynthia reflects on her relationship with her mother, the things that she has learnt from her, and the things that she never told her. Many of these stories are retold here, with Rogerson approaching these accounts with warmth, humour, and honesty. As I was reading one of my immediate thoughts was around what an interesting life she has led, and how dull mine must seem in comparison (don’t think there is much call for my memoirs of visiting the bookshop café nearly every week!) over the course of this memoir we get to hear about Rogerson’s experiences of travelling, hitchhiking, and life on a farm amongst other things. Relationships are also recalled with brutal honesty, as we bear witness to love and loss in many forms, and romances of varying levels of success. It’s a series of stories that provide an unflinching portrayal of family life, in all its beauty, and often anguish.
I always enjoy books which alternate between different timelines so the structure of Wah! Immediately appealed to me. The stories alternate between the time of Barbara’s deteriorating health, as well as switching back and forth through time as we see key moments throughout the family’s lives. And the tone of these stories was mixed, with some being sad and poignant, others being funny, and others being quite shocking! Rogerson has stated that whilst most of the book is lifted straight from her memory, there have been some changes to some of the events included, in order to make the book readable, and I think that is something that has been achieved as I was left interested to hear more about her life through the years. The most important theme throughout the book of course is familial love, in all its complexity, and how we react when we are faced with loss and grief, which will be relatable to so many readers. With the prospect of losing a loved one looming ahead of her, Rogerson reflects on some of the things she has learnt from her mother over the years, whilst also possibly regretting not contacting her as much, and there is something of a role reversal as she checks in on Barbara towards the end of her life, as her mother would have done for her in her formative years. This adds to the poignancy of the book, although given the nature and variety of the stories recounted within its pages, this was a book that had plenty of humourous and uplifting moments to balance the reflection on loss.
I would say that even if you are not familiar with Rogerson’s previous writing that this book will still be of interest for readers who enjoy books which focus on family relationships through the years, as this book takes the reader on a journey back and forth through time, between a mother and daughter, and all the lives that became intertwined.
Wah! was published on 16th June 2022 by Sandstone Press, with thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.