HOME is where the heart is, and when Denise Deegan’s father, Paddy, died two years ago, Denise fled to the childhood haven where she spent happy times in the halcyon days of summer.
“In April two years ago, when my dad died and the pressure felt immense, I bolted to Skibbereen where a very good friend of mine took me in for a few days,” says Denise, who grew up in Kilcoolishal and went to school in St Angela’s.
“Just watching the waves on a deserted in Barleycove beach for hour upon hour brought amazing peace.”
Denise’s new novel, Season Of Second Chances, is set in the imaginary West Cork village of Killrowan.
A new doctor, Grace, comes to town after a tragic situation in her life. At first, she isn’t accepted, the familiar established doctor being the first port of call for Killrowan natives.
But when things take a sinister turn in Killrowan, Grace first comes to the rescue and then emerges as a hero.
“The Killrowan community is like an All Creatures Great And Small scenario or a more modern comparison, Call The Midwife,” says Denise, who writes under her pen name, Aimee Alexander, a combination of her children’s names.
A good book always features a hero.
“The book is about Grace finding herself and finding her inner strength that eventually sustains her,” says Denise.
“She finds the solution to her angst within herself.”
Denise’s familiarity with, and her affinity for West Cork is obvious in the finely constructed lines of the book.
Season Of Second Chances is a riveting read full of imagination, drama, and incident.
Is there a love interest?
“There is a potential love interest,” says Denise, smiling, not willing to divulge any spoiler.
She and her family have a love affair with West Cork. Denise’s grandmother, Anne Coughlan, was from Durrus.
Denise and her family live in Clonskeagh in Dublin and, like many others during lockdown, they couldn’t travel to West Cork.
“On dad’s anniversary this year, with the country on lockdown, I couldn’t be in West Cork,” says Denise.
She was removed from her loved ones too.
“None of us could be there,” says Denise. “I couldn’t be with my mum either,”
That was hard.
“Mum had no one to hug, no one to touch, no one to even see,” says Denise.
“She had been cocooning for five weeks. When I phoned her, she couldn’t speak such was the loneliness.”
Denise’s mother, Mary Egar, is a resident othe f Little Sisters of the Poor, Holy Family Residence, Dublin.
Denise is her mother’s real-life hero.
“I started to put together a package for her. Goodies, novel to read, notelets and stamps so she could write to her friends,” says Denise.
She also used her active writer’s imagination to cheer up her mother, who was cocooning and dwelling on the second anniversary of her husband’s death.
“Bizarrely, I sent her in a mango!” Denise says, laughing.
Then, just like in the best fairy stories, something magical happened.
“Mum had been waiting desperately for Season Of Second Chances to be published,” says Denise.
“She asked for ‘developments’ every time we spoke. The book was officially published this month but delivery of paperback copies by Amazon was delayed due to the pandemic.”
“Then, like magic, books arrived just as I needed them, 10 days before the expected delivery date!” says Denise.
She was able to transport her mother to a happy place.
“On the day mum was at her lowest ebb ever, I was able to bring her to West Cork.”
Mary waited at the window for her hero to arrive.
“I couldn’t hand the package to her in person,” says Denise. “I left it at reception, rang her and told her to go to the window.
“She lives on the first floor. Her voice has been weakened by Parkinson’s disease.”
Denise sets the poignant scene.
“It was windy. I couldn’t hear her when she tried to call down.”
Mary senses were honed to her daughter’s voice.
“She could hear me when I called up to her,” says Denise.
Mother and daughter were happy.
“It was so lovely to see her face,” says Denise.
Mary loves revisiting West Cork where her own mother was born and bred.
Reading her daughter’s book;, she can go there any time she likes in her mind’s eye.
“In her mind, mum can go to West Cork any time she likes,” says Denise. “She can stand on the beach in Barleycove with the main character, Grace and watch the waves roll in.
“She can feel the wind in her face, the salt water on her skin.”
She can find her inner strength, just like Grace.
“Mum can go on a journey of recovery, of finding a community, inner strength and new beginnings,” says Denise.
Now that we can travel within Ireland, Denise is looking forward to travelling the familiar road to West Cork, revisiting lovely memories of her youth.
“West Cork is one of my favourite places in the whole world,” says Denise.
She can escape now to her childhood haven. Just like Grace, the beauty, charm, and solace of West Cork will always sustain her.
“There, I can start a sequel to Season Of Second Chances,” says Denise.
“I can become my main character, Grace. I can live her life and always return to West Cork that way.”
And Denise and her loved ones can live happily ever after.
Denise’s new novel, Season Of Second Chances, is written under her pen name, Aimee Alexander and is available on Amazon as both a paperback and ebook.