Some kind reviews from readers


Professor Catherine Comisky

Dear Arylene, just a note to let you know that I finished your book last night. What a journey you have had! Your book had me up late for the past few nights as I wanted to keep reading on to hear how your story progressed.  I did not want to put it down. I wouldn’t presume to comment but as you have asked me to review it I would be happy to provide a mix of personal and professional opinion. I really related to your writing about early school days. Being a small town convent girl myself I recognised so much of my own experiences from the indoor shoes to the desk with pictures of David Essex pulled from Jackie magazine to singing in the church and of course the sometimes cruelty we witnessed from staff but also between girls. I think as a child of the 1960s, I and many others will relate strongly to what you have written.

I was initially surprised by the removed almost remote way you wrote about your sexual abuse both on the first and subsequent occasions but when I got to the final chapters I could see how differently and passionately you wrote about it there. It was as if when writing the book you personally developed and moved on as the story did. Again, I am not an expert and these are just my personal reflections and reactions as a reader. 

While I have not lived in London I loved your stories from there and as so many of my contemporaries did move to London in the 1980s I think those readers will really enjoy reading the details of  your journeys on the tube, your first impressions, working with the A to Z. It is all so relatable. It brought me back to my own experiences of visiting London and all that I felt and enjoyed at that time.


You said your book was a book of hope and I can see that especially from the later chapters but while I was reading it what struct me most was how strong, capable, powerful and brave you were. I saw it as a real story of courage not so much in over coming trauma as reading through the early chapters I did not know that your greatest trauma was yet to come. It was your courage in taking on and excelling in new challenges. Do you see how brave your were? Working in the pub, learning your craft, getting on with people, moving to new jobs after the death of the pub owner, becoming a landlady, starting your own cab business, entering for the police career, taking on a legal case, surviving when it failed, getting back up….

I also saw it as a love story. The love of a hero Gerry, the enduring love of your family and the greatest loss of all. The loss of Siobhan. Arylene I was so sad to read this, such pain, such loss, I know from my own wider families experiences that the loss of a child is something that never goes away. Thank God for Grace.  A different love and one that has healed and brought you hope as you explain so well in the book.

I think Gerry should be rolled out as a new role model for great men! What a wonderful person to have had in your life. The care and kindness you showed one another is so well portrayed in the book. I think you both can be proud of the relationship you have written about.

Thank you for sending me your book and allowing me to comment. It is so much more than a story of trauma or a story of a person who used drugs and alcohol to survive. As a writer you did not sensationalise your story, you did not deliberately play with the emotions of your reader as many authors do. You told us a story we could relate to, a story of a brave young girl, an amazingly bright young woman on a journey in England and a mature woman who came to terms with huge loss and is now flourishing.  As you say, it is a story of hope and I hope when your readers finish your story they will take courage and hope for their futures and past hurts from you.

Well done and thank you for this privilege


Professor Catherine M. Comiskey, BA(Mod), MA, MSc, PhD.,
Professor of Healthcare Modelling and Statistics,
School of Nursing and Midwifery,
Trinity College Dublin,
The University of Dublin,

Declan Henry

CEO, Media Club

Donegal is one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland with an abundance of breathtaking scenery including well-known beaches and seaside towns. Donegal is home to Mailin Head, the most northerly point of Ireland and the Slieve League cliffs, one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. 

It is a county steeped in history with a rugged and scenic Atlantic landscape and a scattering of many rural towns, including Ballyshannon where Arylene Murphy was raised. 

This attractive town is one of the oldest in Ireland and is laid out on the hilly banks of Lough Erne. It is the picture of tranquillity, but for the author, this town, despite coming from a loving and caring family, was also home to many of her dark secrets. How does someone even begin to tell you they were sexually abused by seven men and one woman by the time they reached their fourteenth birthday? How can a person overcome this level of abuse and its deep rooted trauma that attempted escape through alcohol and drug misuse? How can somebody rebuild their self-worth and trust in humanity and start living again after years of pain, confusion and suffering? All of these questions are answered (and many more) in this beautifully written, poignant and engrossing book which is devoid of self-pity and promotes survival.  

The main part of this book is set in London where Arylene moved to live in the halcyon days of the early 1980s.  Seeing this wonderful city for the first time is captured beautifully and leads the reader to close their eyes and visualise a hot summer’s day in Central London – the sights and sounds – as she walked from Marble Arch down Oxford Street and into Regent Street before arriving at Piccadilly Circus and continuing to Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Here was a young woman embarking on a new beginning while seeking a reprieve from the childhood abuse she suffered back in Donegal. But was it to become a sticking plaster over a deep wound, momentarily giving relief to the pain, only to realise that once the plaster was removed, the wound hadn’t healed? 

Arylene’s personality meant she was often shy, hesitant and reserved – but she had another side to her character that proved capable, independent and resourceful. This came across in several jobs she found in the hospitality industry. Romance beckoned with Gerry and as their love blossomed, it also presented challenges and changes before tragedy struck. By this time, however, Arylene has developed a drink problem that was worsening. This was followed by illicit drug misuse which along with alcohol became the staple diet used to blank out the recurring agonising memories of her past. As she got older she questioned if she would ever have a normal life. In her more lucid moments, she wondered if there would ever become a time when she wouldn’t be a prisoner of her past. But how does someone who has hit rock bottom reach out for help?  

Arylene’s desire to give up alcohol and drugs was strong enough for her to ask her family for help. They responded with love, patience, kindness and understanding before she underwent rehabilitation. At times it was hard and although there were mini setbacks, once the journey to recovery had started, there was no turning back. While Arlene had divulged parts of her abuse to family members and partners, she never told anybody the full story. The grip that trauma held over her never allowed her to make a full disclosure even to her trusted confidants. This is not uncommon in people who experience abuse. The shame, guilt and fear are often so powerful that once these emotions attach to a person’s psyche, nothing but sheer willpower and determination will enable the detachment which leads to recovery and survival. But willpower and determination are enemies of fear and trauma. Sometimes a herculean effort is needed to overcome emotional pain that is buried and deemed untouchable.  


During Arylene’s recovery in the years after the millennium, Ireland too was going through many of changes. The country was emerging from the dominance of past centuries when the church suppressed free expression around sex and sexuality. While it is unlikely that sexual abuse will ever be fully eradicated in any society, when it comes to the Ireland of the past, what needs to be understood is that the partnership between the church and state that endured for so long ensured that this widespread malaise was given breeding ground to remain under the radar for so long. As a result, the abused remained silenced, and many people went to their graves never having recovered from the trauma they endured. Thankfully Arylene is not one of them. We can only offer her our appreciation for her bravery in writing such a beautiful and personal account of her life that will undoubtedly be a great source of inspiration and hope to many people. 

Declan Henry is an Irish author. To date he has written seven books and has also been published in the media, both in Ireland and the UK, including articles in: Irish Independent, The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, The Kent Journal of Mental Health, Kent Messenger, Huffington Post, The Irish News, The Irish Post, The Irish World and Ireland’s Eye.

Declan holds a Master of Science Degree in Mental Health Social Work and a BA (Hons) in Education and Community Studies. He has dual vocational qualifications in Social Work and Community and Youth Work. He is a registered social worker and has worked in the profession since 1993. He also holds a Level 3 Award in Education and Training for teaching creative writing.


Margaret Chapman

I would highly recommend this book, Arylene Murphy very kindly gifted me her book for a peer review. I found it difficult to leave down. Arylenes story is filled with fear, joy, grief, trauma, written with compassion and gratitude for the love and support from her familyMuch Love & Blessings Arylene and a huge congratulations on the release of your book on Amazon  

Margaret Chapman Centre of Wellbeing, Derry.

Martin Mac

Honoured to have received a signed copy (pre release) of “Grace”. It’s the story of my good friend and colleague Arylene’s harrowing journey through childhood sexual abuse and her subsequent descent into a life of addiction before finally finding recovery. It’s as inspirational a book as I have ever read, a book that will help so many who have suffered in this way. It will also, I believe give greater depth and understanding to professionals working in the area of trauma, mental health, addiction and abuse. It would not surprise if it became a basic text for mental health professionals. I have no doubt either it will become a best seller when released over the coming months. I’m extremely proud of your work Arylene, beautifully crafted, a labour of love, compassionate and caring (as I know you to be) Love ya MARTIN Mac

Martin McFadden

Integrative Counsellor Innovative Interventions Ireland

Stephen Mc Loughlin

Hi Arylene, Hope you’re well. I finished your book the other night and what can I say – wow!! It was clear and accessible and written with the benefit of a journey travelled and reflected upon. At the heart of it was a survivor who never quite gave up on herself despite the obvious trauma. There was a gentleness also without it being overly sentimental and even though there was a lot of pain I didn’t detect any sense of blame or projection. 

You have digested an awful lot and it was a privilege to read through the details of your story and to now know the person who has emerged from it all. Like so much of life, there was in it a messy mixture of light and darkness, the frailty of human beings and the beautiful steadfastness of family and others. I’m delighted that you were able to write this book and offer it out to others as something which many will relate to but also offer hope beyond any particular group of people. It took courage to do this and that’s the mark of you, Arylene. Thanks for sharing this with me and as I mentioned in my last email my wife Tina also was engrossed in the book and found a lot of it resonated with her own experiences in life. I’d love to put it up on our Facebook page and to sell copies of it here at White Oaks if that was something you’d be happy with – we’d have to place it alongside Neal’s book (and he has a new one coming out sometime soon!). Let me know what you’d want in that regard.


Stephen Mc Loughlin, Clinical Director at White Oaks Treatment Centre.