This Holey Life is ostensibly about an ordinary British family making their way through the mountains and valleys of life. But it’s actually about the holes … the missing pieces that are carved out of us by disappointments and pain and death of our loved ones. And it’s about the love that fills those holes, the love that comes in the form of a loyal husband, a baby’s chubby fingers, a child’s craft all sticky with too much glue, and a hug or a smile from a teenager.
Even though this novel isn’t about clinical depression, and even though I stay far away from books about depression, Duffy gives us Vicky — a mom, a preacher’s wife, a sister, a daughter — who has so much responsibility in life that she cannot push through the mud of depression due to her son’s death. And vice-versa. Vicky is so mired in sadness over her son’s death that she cannot appreciate the blessings in her responsibilities as a mom, wife, sister and daughter.
I feel for Vicky. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love, and then still be expected to carry on, as if that hole shouldn’t affect your ability to love others and take care of them with a joyful heart. I felt Vicky’s need to be alone or cry or scream — a need that went unmet because she had to fulfill her responsibilities. I empathized with Vicky the numerous times she thought she might break because she had nothing left to give — and then her brother Martin would come strolling in, taking, taking, taking more. Martin was the perfect symbol of “the last straw” in anyone’s life.
The book was just as much about Vicky’s husband Steve: his burdens, his turning point from depression to joyful living, and the steadfast love he has for his family.
This Holey Life had its light and happy moments, and I smiled often while reading. But just as often, I cried. I cried for Steve who was so loving in all the right ways, for Vicky who was so strong even though she felt her head was barely above water, for the parents and sisters and brothers and cousins, who all found their place, filling Vicky’s holes, filling her heart.
Buy it now This Holey Life