When was the last time you wanted to roar at a coworker’s sexist jokes, at pay gaps and pigeonholing, at all the unjust ways women are treated? Maybe you thought you were alone in wanting to roar? Or that your experiences were so painful, strange or embarrassing, no other woman could possibly feel the same? The good news is that once you meet the thirty women in Cecelia Ahern’s new short story collection, Roar, you will know, instantly, you are not alone.
There’s the woman who finds herself slowly disappearing as she enters middle age. Diagnosed with a condition that causes the chromosomes in her body to fade away, the woman took to wearing brighter clothes and highlighting her hair to hold her disappearance at bay for as long as possible, but by fifty-eight she’s nothing more than a shimmering outline, and she’s lost all hope of being visible again until the day she’s contacted by a highly sought-after female consultant who specialises in unseen, middle-aged women.
A woman is swallowed up by the floor after coming to an agonising, tongue-tied halt during a big presentation at work. With her colleagues’ eyes glued to her sweaty, stammering face, the woman silently wishes that the ground would swallow her, and as if on cue, a big, beautiful black hole opens up between her and the boardroom table. Jumping in, the woman finds lots of other women taking refuge from their own cringeworthy moments, and it’s with their encouragement that the woman eventually gathers up the courage to climb out of the hole and carry on.
Another woman begins to find mysterious bite marks on her body when she returns to work after the birth of her child. After confounding multiple doctors with her ailment, the woman realises it’s her guilt about putting her baby in childcare, about returning to work, about trying to have it all. The guilt is physically eating away at her. There’s a woman put on a shelf by her husband, a thirty-something woman gifted a ticking clock locket by her aunt, and a woman who ‘guards gonads,’ policing and restricting men’s reproductive rights along with a band of other female law enforcers.
Already being adapted for the screen by Nicole Kidman’s production company, Roar is powerful, clever and refreshingly original. Now married with two children, Ahern’s life has changed radically since her first book, PS, I Love You catapulted her to the top of the bestseller list back in 2004, and it shows in her writing, first with her acclaimed dystopian YA, Flawed, released two years ago, and now, in this stunning and important short story collection.
In Roar, Ahern has collected a range of experiences that many women have but rarely talk about, and used them to craft thirty wildly imaginative stories that explore these experiences. All the stories have elements of magical realism, sometimes even science fiction, and it makes for fascinating reading as Ahern turns abstract emotions and unspoken anxieties into bizarre, (un)real-life situations for her thirty heroines to navigate.
Although surreal, every situation in Roar is instantly recognisable, completely relatable. There’s a comforting sense of universality that’s strengthened through Ahern’s reference to each of her heroines as only ‘the woman who…’ Each of the thirty heroines could be any one of us, and this makes for an engaging and profoundly reassuring reading experience. Every unnamed heroine also has a moment of transformation, a realisation of her true worth or strength or bravery, and this makes Roar a deeply empowering read.
Roar will inspire and challenge you, it may even make you want to roar in frustration and anger. But it’ll also make you roar with pride at our resilience and courage. And by the end of the book, you’ll know for sure, you’re not alone.
Bravo, Cecelia Ahern.
About the author:
Cecelia Ahern was born and grew up in Dublin. She is now published in nearly fifty countries, and has sold over twenty-four million copies of her novels worldwide. Her bestelling debut novel, P.S. I Love You, published in 2004, remains her most popular novel. Her YA novel Flawed, published in 2016, was described by The Guardian as ‘one of the best dystopian books around.’ Two of her books have been adapted as films and she has created several TV series. The much-loved author and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met You.
Ahern lives in Dublin with her family.