Caught by the River

Twelve Moons

Kerri ní Dochartaigh | 16th February 2023

Newly published by Harper Collins, Caro Giles‘s ‘Twelve Moons’ is a story of how one person — perhaps particularly a mother — holds within their hands the power to change the world, writes Kerri ní Dochartaigh.

‘What is the life of a mother measured by? The unseen acts of love go unrecorded…
I want to tell her that I see…All those small acts of love that make a life.’

Victoria Bennett, ‘All My Wild Mothers’

‘So when you close your eyes at night,
The moon reflects the sun’s soft light,
Shining down with a silvery glow,
As we dream our dreams in the world below.’

Britta Teckentrup, ‘Moon’

What does it mean to care? 

To hold our children close, as the worlds both outside and inside feel increasingly threatening; confusing; overwhelming? 

How do we tend a light in such darkness?

I don’t think I’ve ever met a creative woman who wasn’t into the moon. This book is, at its core — a love story between a woman; a creative; a mother — and the moon. It is also a telling of the way life can be shaped by circumstances outside of our control; impacted on by people, events and things we have no way of influencing. More so, though, it is a story of how one person — perhaps particularly a mother — holds, within their busy, tired hands – the power to change the world; to take a dark time and make it shine. 

‘Somehow the darkness soothes me, this mother who has birthed four daughters, and must now raise them in a world that has revealed itself to be harsh and relentless. I worry about how I can show them magic and calm, when they have already seen cruel and unfair.’

During the lockdowns, I gained more than I can really say from reading words and viewing images of the day to day lives of women I had never met. Instagram got lots of us through that unsettling, isolating time. I remember reading Caro Giles’ words and hoping they’d be in a book one day. She spoke openly and frankly about what it means to look like a different family from what we have been told is ‘the norm’ – what it means to be the main parent; a carer; a friend; a daughter; a mother; a creative – all at the same time. 

‘We were almost invincible, our tribe, and I became used to deflecting questions about our family, and why we looked a little different…’

Thankfully, her important words did become a book, and what a book it is. I am certain I am not alone when I say this book has reshaped how I view many things: neurodivergence; caring; mothering; the need for alone time as a woman — and much more besides. I hope Giles realises that in writing her own story with such honesty and precision, she has made many of us feel less alone, too; more connected to others spending their busy days and long nights as we are.

‘When I stand and stare up at the moon, I can imagine kindred spirits doing the same, and I feel less alone.’

There is such poetry to this book; such grace in the way Giles writes of her past; her children; her fears; her hopes. Here is a woman who knows what it means to sit with her own experiences — those that rattle us and leave us changed — and not shy away from the invitation to transformation such things carry in their wake. I feel humbled to be let in on this year of her life; a year that affected some members of our communities in ways that perhaps others were not quite aware of. Carers were placed in positions that no-one should ever have to be put in. I watched from my own position of relative ease as friends fought for the respite they so desperately needed; for even very basic support for their children; for people to simply listen to, and trust them, when it came to the small people for which they were caring day in, day out. 

And where does a mother, a carer, a writer, end — and the person beneath it all begin?

‘In these hours when the world is sleeping, I feel invincible. I am a mother of course, but I am also the promise of my own future, of who I can become. As I sit and watch the shadows cast from the candles, I see myself dancing, skirt spinning, hair caught in the wind, and I know that a better version of me is emerging.’

I would struggle to place this book within any given genre (I feel, anyway, like this might matter more for those involved in the book who are not the author). It is partly memoir, partly nature writing, very quietly political too in how it deals with things such as unhelpful organisations who are supposed to help; the struggle of being a woman in a violent male world; what it means to mother in the way Giles has chosen to. All I know is that you will come away hungry to read more of her accounts of her life; the way she weaves magic from what might otherwise feel a heavy, lonely time. I am grateful for, and changed by, her words. 


‘Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky’ is out now, published by Harper Collins.

Kerri’s second book ‘Cacophony of Bone’ will be published in May. Pre-order a copy here.