Constellations: Reflections from Life

Constellations: Reflections from Life

by Sinéad Gleeson


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"These brilliant essays read as if Gleeson has made a vow to her readers to illuminate what it means to live in a human body—for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health—all the days of her life. Come for the dark jokes and existential dread. Stay for the beauty and tenderness."
—Jenny Offill, author of Weather

“Nimbly written, balletic in style, heartfelt, spirited, and thoughtful, Sinéad Gleeson’s Constellations is a powerful, inspiring gift to readers everywhere.”
—Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours 


A #1 Irish bestseller, Sinéad Gleeson’s essays chronicle—in crystalline, tender, powerful prose—life in a body as it goes through sickness, health, motherhood, and love of all kinds.

I have come to think of all the metal in my body as artificial stars, glistening beneath the skin, a constellation of old and new metal. A map, a tracing of connections and a guide to looking at things from different angles.

We treat the body as an afterthought, until it no longer can be. Until the pain or the pleasure is too great. Sinéad Gleeson’s life has been marked by terrible illness, including leukemia and debilitating arthritis. As a child, she bathed in the springs of Lourdes, ever hopeful that her body would cooperate, ever looking forward to the day when she could take her body for granted. But just as she turns inward to explore her own pain, and then the marvel of recovery, and then the arrival of her greatest joys—falling in love, becoming a mother—she turns her gaze outward. She delves into history, art, literature, and music, plotting the intimate experience of life in a women’s body across a wide-ranging map. From Nick Cave to Taylor Swift, Botticelli to Frida Kahlo, Louisa May Alcott to Lucy Grealy, Constellations is an investigation into the different ways of seeing, both uniquely personal and universal in its resonances.

In the tradition of some of our finest life writers, Gleeson explores—in her own spirited, generous voice—the fierceness of being alive. She has written “a book [that] every woman should read” (Eimear McBride).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780358213031
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 117,220
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

SINÉAD GLEESON is a writer, editor and freelance broadcaster. She has been published in Granta, among many other places, and is the editor of three award-winning short story anthologies, including The Long Gaze Back: an Anthology of Irish Women Writers. Previously, she presented The Book Show on RTÉ Radio One in Ireland.

Table of Contents

Blue Hills and Chalk Bones 1

Hair 19

Our Mutual Friend 35

60,000 Miles of Blood 55

On the Atomic Nature of Trimesters 89

Panopticon: Hospital Visions 107

The Moons of Motherhood 119

The Haunted Haunting Women 137

Where Does It Hurt? Twenty stories based on the McGill pain index 153

A Wound Gives Off Its Own Light 175

The Adventure Narrative 191

Twelve Stories of Bodily Autonomy (for the twelve women a day who left) 207

Second Mother 221

A Non-Letter to My Daughter (named for a warrior queen) 237

Constellation Key 241

Acknowledgements 242

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