These two memoirs tread a lot of the same ground (Northern Ireland during The Troubles, family drama/grief, all told humorously), but I honestly liked Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? better than The Troubles With Us simply because Séamas O’Reilly is a better writer and I really enjoy his voice. His memoir follows his family in the aftermath of his mother’s death when he’s five. His father is left with eleven children to take care of and the rest of the book is a series of funny stories that trace his growing up and grappling with his grief. I think what I especially liked was his ability to balance the funny with the sad, and he’s just a skilled storyteller overall (you might know him from his viral Twitter thread about being high on ketamine while serving the President of Ireland). He really captures both the depths of grief and its repercussions while making you laugh, and his obvious deep love for his father and siblings makes the book very warm. (Four stars)
The Troubles With Us also has a mix of humor and sadness, along with the unraveling of family secrets. This one I connected less with, which I think was due to both that I found her non-stop drinking escapades depressing and not funny, and the family secrets confusing enough that I had to keep plotting family trees in my head to understand what was going on. I also personally found her choices and reactions to things irritating, so I spent a lot of time arguing with her in my head, which didn’t make for a reading experience that I enjoyed. I did like her exploration of the reverberations of trauma and secret keeping throughout a family, and her ability to convey complicated familial love, and the differing viewpoints family members might have of the same events. I also liked the sections about The Troubles and their impact on her life. I just personally connected less with her as a reader. (Three stars)
Warnings for descriptions of assault, death, sectarian violence throughout.