(Hi Patricia, Happy Mother’s Day, you’re a star x).
‘The Newborn Identity’ is a diarised account of Maria Boyle’s first year of parenthood when, along with her inestimable husband, Colm, she became parent to two lovely twin girls and nurtured them towards toddlerhood.
I like Maria a lot. She is one of the few people in the world who I have walked up and down the Galway Promenade with, chatting all the way such that the time seemed as nothing. She also has the rather dubious claim to fame of being the only person on Twitter who I ever asked to follow me back. That was about ten years ago and I just thought that she was such fun and so clever that I wanted to be part of her dialogue rather than just a spectator. That worked out well as I’ve enjoyed her online presence ever since.
She even created an avatar/picture for my twitter account which I used with great pride for many years. I eventually had to give up because she had made me so ridiculously and incorrectly handsome that the disappointed faces of people who met me in person became too hard for me to bear. I still treasure the drawing though.
Maria and I have one other thing in common. I think it may be the tie that binds. We both have busy and demanding professional and family lives but we both also have a very real drive to be creative, to explore life through some form of art, to entertain.
That’s why this book is a particular delight to me, quite apart from the fact that it is a delight on many other levels too. Too see Maria continually succeed like this is a justified delight.
Maria started Twisteddoodles as an outlet for her iconic and savagely witty online comics. The work quickly went viral and became admired far and wide. The cartoons cast a warm and particularly Irish view on everyday life, the themes veering from tiny to huge at the drop of a hat. If there is an overriding impression of the work, for me a least, it can be summed up in a single word: Truth. I see the comics and the cartoons and I laugh and smile and I say to myself ‘God, that’s so true.’ Or else I shake my head gently and say ‘Yup, she’s done it again, that’s the truth.’ Truth seems to inform everything Maria creates. There is very little guile involved in her creative work. She will tell it to you like it is. That may be wildly funny or even a little crude but the effect of the undiluted truth is that it will strike you in your heart and in your memory and it will make you feel something. That is why Twisteddoodles is the viral sensation that it is.
So now, from this creative endeavour, comes her brand new book, ‘The Newborn Identity’. As a Facebook follower, I was lucky enough to see quite a few of the book’s diary entries appear in ‘real time’ on that social platform. They had an immediacy and a startling sense of love and crisis that hauled you along with them emotionally. You share Maria’s joy, laugh at the funny moments, and feel genuinely gutted throughout the long sleepless nights that many of us might have experienced but perhaps not with twins.
The new book arrives with all of the joy of the Twisteddoodles cartoons, coupled with Maria’s diary entries, starting with learning she was pregnant right through to when the girls are a year old.
Once again, the keyword for me is truth. The creative work has lost nothing in its amalgamation into a book. In fact, the book has very effectively corralled the work into a flowing and involving narrative which grabs you and drags you along and doesn’t let you go.
And you don’t want to be let go. The account of this year of bodily changes, childbirth and motherhood is hilarious and visceral, exhausting and fulfilling, all at the same time. And always there is the truth. You can tell that Maria is not trying to play you or make you feel one thing or another, she is simply telling it like it was and this unerring honesty makes the book doubly funny, doubly warm and doubly good.
Shining out from the book is the fact that Maria is a great person. Endlessly smart, precociously talented and filled to the brim with the love and fear that makes us human. But the subtle prize in the book is her husband, best friend, and partner. Colm is a constant presence: understated, patient and eternally supportive. But he is so much more than that. He is a blindingly funny guy and his presence in the book is one of a loving and benevolent genius who stands by with a copious supply of wit and wry humour.
I really like the book. If I didn't know Maria from Adam, I would still really like the book. Much of human life is in there, the joy and the struggles, and it’s all told by a very unique and eloquent voice.
I found my copy in the Maternity section of the bookshop. There’s a place for it there, although prospective mothers and fathers may be a little dismayed by the copious levels of poo that’s involved.
But there’s a place for it on many other shelves too. If there’s a shelf for writing true stuff about life, if there’s a shelf for making the reader coil up with silent laughter, if there’s a shelf for unique voices in literature, put it on there too.
I am utterly delighted to see Maria continue to expand her creative genius out into the world. Check her out online and here in this extremely funny, entertaining, heartfelt – and true - book.
She’s a person worth knowing.