Tuam author Maura McHugh

Tuam’s unsung Gothic writer

THE 21st Century has brought many massive changes to us: enormous climatic shifts, the frightening erosion of democracy particularly in America, heightened security resulting from the 9/11 atrocities, terrorists’ attacks in what we thought were safe places to holiday and now the current pandemic with its rolling lockdowns.

In addition, psychological studies have shown there is an increase in mental health disorders in high-income countries in the West. And to burst our forlorn bubble that these too might pass, we learn there are people such as billionaires, environmentalists and those trying to recreate the American dream, seeking new and safer places such as New Zealand and even Mars where they can establish a new society, away from this dystopic nightmare.

The world appears to be crowding in on top of us, robbing us of all we know and love and there is little we do.

There are writers who try to put a shape on this time of uncertainty: Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003); Mark O’Connell in Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back (2020); Emily St. John Mandel in Station Eleven (2014) where civilisation is wiped out over weeks in a flu pandemic — to mention a few.

And here in Tuam we have our own writer who may be putting a shape on what most of us prefer not to acknowledge. She is a novelist who has already been critically acclaimed as an expert in several genres: the novella, screen play; short stories, long-form prose, comics and radio plays. Yet she is not recognised in her own town for the power that she is.

Maura McHugh is not a woman to court popularity or acceptance. I went to Books and More to buy a couple of her works before interviewing her. They hadn’t heard of her. They ordered two books for me: her book of short stories entitled The Bough Withered (When I told Them My Dreams) and a book to which she has contributed: Judges Vol Two, Golgotha, Psyche, The Patriots.

Read the feature in this week's edition of The Tuam Herald