Sister Maple Syrup Eyes by Ian Brennan
Published by Pleasure Boat Studio
Published 1 Sept. 2015
Music producer Ian Brennan releases his book Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, Louder Than War’s Mary O’Meara reviews.
“Music and other forms of art are by far the most effective kind of social-work that exists. A single, nameless one-hit wonder brings more comfort to the world than almost any single psychologist can hope to in a lifetime.” –Ian Brennan writes these words as an introduction to himself, his website and his belief in the healing power of music. As an award-winning record producer this isn’t too surprising but sadly neither music or healing play a significant role in Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, his new and first novel.
The difficult subject matter revolves around a rape and the repercussions it has on not just on the victim but her partner (the narrator of the novel) and others left reeling in its trajectory. Although the book is described by the author as a work of fiction he does state in the preface that it is “inspired by my own life-altering experience at age 21 when my first love was horrifically beaten and raped in her apartment by a family friend”. It seems impossible to read this book in any other way than at least semi-autobiographical. The first person narrative is too alive with the energy of an eye-witness, the detail is too vivid, the memories too burdensome. And incapacitating and burdensome they are. That’s where the real pain is portrayed so effectively by the author – this deadening sense of heaviness and inability to escape or forget each repeated wounding.
This suffocating weight indents and strains everything – indelibly and invisibly simultaneously and this is where Brennan excels in describing the physical scars but also the unseen damage, the scorch-marks to the soul that time doesn’t seem to heal. This isn’t a comfortable read and how could it be given the subject matter? It is certainly a worthwhile read both educationally in terms of understanding the impact of sexual assault but also worthwhile for the poetry contained in such a stark and troubled tale. Many characters in the book are “damaged” both before and after the rape scene and there truly is little to uplift in these pages other than the hope that healing can and will come. As I reach the end of the book, the text disappears and we are left with a sequence of line drawings, faces, features, expressions all seeming to shrivel up, crawl off the page out of sight – but not out of mind. That’s the lasting impression Sister Maple Syrup Eyes leaves me with – you can run but you can’t hide and this book at the very least ensures that the enormity of this experience is made visible, is at least acknowledged for the horror that it is and how it touches and darkens the lives of many, not few.
All words by Mary O’ Meara. More writing by Mary on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.