The little girl with the veil.
Shoulders back, eyes lowered. Reverent. Silent. Fearful.
1983, the little veiled one walking into the Irish village church, the whispers, the stares.
'She's the one from Australia,' the children whispered.
'Isn't she Paddy O'Connor's youngun. He's back from Australia you know. Just for the visit,' an old lady claimed knowingly.
'Ah bless and his girleen here, she's after coming along to make the First Communion here, right where her own Da would have been after making it ... what, it must be close to 40 years ago,' remarked her friend with fondness for my father and the cheeky little boy she knew him to be.
So often I am asked if I base the characters in my books on family, friends or my clients, or if they are a reflection of myself.
I am not Clara. Fortunately I have not experienced Clara's trauma.
But I know Clara and I intimately know the little girl who walked into the Catholic Church in a small village in Ireland on a Sunday in May to make her First Holy Communion.
I felt the stares of the congregation.
I heard their whispers.
I knew how I was expected to behave under the watchful eye of 'God' and 'his' pious followers.
I had witnessed the violent consequence of stepping out of line only days before. The whip, a feared companion of many of the men in the village.
The village my father had grown up in.
The village my father loved.
The village my father left at 15-years-old.
The village my father never desired to return.
My father was not this village and he did not live by the spoken and unspoken rules of this village.
Yet he sat beside me with a deep pride, bringing his Australian family 'home' for the first time. And I, his third daughter, of age to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion was the one sitting with my eyes lowered, my shoulders back, my hands held reverently in prayer, praying desperately that I didn't do the wrong thing and bring shame upon my father and his family.
The fear, guilt and shame that was somehow embedded in me long before this day. The fear, guilt and shame that lay within Clara long before her First Communion day. The fear, guilt and shame that lies within you and within all women.
Beneath The Veil may be Clara's story, but the uncomfortable truth is that it is my story and it is your story. It is the story of every woman who has been suppressed and disempowered by the patriarch. It is in our ancestral lineage and in our cultural stories, and as Clara rises, we are all inspired to rise. .
Once upon a time, the little girl on the far right of this photo was fearful and timid and did not have a voice. She was too scared to have a voice. Fast-forward 36 years and she has become courageous and strong and she finally has a voice. And with that voice, I am honoured to share with you the inspirational and transformative story of Clara in Beneath The Veil.
Click on the link below to download Chapter 1 of Beneath The Veil.