An American journalist steps lightly and perceptively in these vignettes of Northern Ireland as it endeavors to bring peace into its everyday life.
Rucker moved to Belfast in 1998 as a stringer for several US newspapers, hungry to report on the changes afoot since the peace accords. What he tenders for readers to consider here are images of a people desirous of peace but accustomed to unrest seeking an accommodation with the past. That past is never very far away, and we quickly encounter lives left in shambles by the Troubles, stories of parents and children and siblings killed or maimed or tortured in ugly circumstances that Rucker recounts vividly, but with reserve. After years of careful negotiation, of talks about talks about peace giving way to cease-fires and palpable gestures of peace, it all still feels very tentative, he concludes. Everyone must learn to live with bitterness. Musing about such symbols of oppression as the Maze, one venerable activist comments, “This place has been part of people's lives for almost thirty years. I can't help but think that most of those lives were ruined.” The region’s spattered history since the dreadful events of Bloody Sunday (which Rucker details in a riveting chapter) militates against forgiveness. Social justice and a vaguely reasonable distribution of wealth remain far-off goals. To make life all the more difficult, some factions continue to wage war, and “punishment gangs” of men who seem to be at loose ends now that the armed fight has been shelved hard are at work doling out revenge. Still, the author suggests, there is so much yearning for peace.
Poignant and disturbing.