Cells

memories for my mother

Gavin McCrea author

Format:Paperback

Publisher:Scribe Publications

Published:11th May '23

£9.99

Available for immediate dispatch.

This paperback is available in another edition too:

Cells cover

From the author of Mrs Engels and The Sisters Mao, an intimate family memoir about filial love and its limits, separation, and loss.

Gavin is spending the quarantine with his eighty-year-old mother, whose mind is slowly slipping away. He has returned home to care for her and to write a novel. But all he can write about is her. In this frank and revealing memoir, he unspools an intimate story of his upbringing and early adulthood: feeling out of place as a child, homophobic bullying at school, his brother’s mental illness and drug addiction, his father’s sudden death, his own devastating diagnosis, his struggles and triumphs as a writer, and above all, his relationship with his mother. Her brightness shines a light over his childhood, but her betrayal of his teenage self leads to years of resentment and disconnection. Now, he must find a way to reconcile with her, before it is too late.

‘Flayingly authentic and sensationally compelling … one of the best books of the year.’

-- Anthony Cummins * The Observer *

Cells is a raw, throbbing thing; the literary equivalent of an open wound, but one that’s been cauterised by a highly skilled surgeon … one of the very best, most authentic, beautiful, and brutal depictions of a deep and abiding, albeit imperfect love between a son and his mother, not to mention the story of the making of an acutely talented writer.’

-- Lucy Scholes * The Telegraph *

‘Raw and deeply affecting.’

-- Fiona Buckley * The Guardian *

‘Fantastic.’

-- Seán Hewitt * Sunday Independent *

‘Already established as a leading voice in Irish literature as a novelist, Gavin McCrea’s first foray into memoir, Cells, allows him to pour his literary prowess into a heart stopping excavation of the self … An antidote to shame that this country sorely desires, Cells will heighten the capacity for empathy in all who read it. Not least of all, empathy for the self.’

-- Helen Cullen * The Irish Times *

‘Remarkable’

-- Andrew McMillan

‘McCrea lays himself bare.’

-- Sophie Grenham * The Sunday Times *

‘A brave, raw, visceral memoir told with such acuity, insight, and compassion, I could barely put it down. Gavin McCrea’s unflinching mapping of his family’s struggles, his own journey towards individuation and self-realisation, as well as his deep, conflicted love for his mother, is beautifully rendered, painful, and real. A stunning, memorable read.’

-- Lisa Harding, author of Bright Burning Things

‘McCrea’s emotionally intelligent dissection of personal relationships ensures that this is no squalid misery memoir.’

-- Houman Barekat * TLS *

‘While a deeply personal book, Cells represents an important comment on modern Ireland.’

-- Luke Warde * Sunday Independent *

Cells is a compulsive tidal force of a book: detailed, vulnerable, and brave, it pulled me in swiftly and held me to the very end.’

-- Seán Hewitt, author of All Down Darkness Wide

‘This is a book that brims with stored-up pain — and with a very particular kind of courage. For all its dark and sometimes brutal honesty, what the reader is going to remember here is the way that McCrea’s prose fights on through his hurt to bring home pages that seem lit from within by love and beauty. A memoir that is as rewarding as it is undoubtedly challenging.’

-- Neil Bartlett, author of Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall and Address Book

‘Reading Cells, I was struck by McCrea’s generosity in interrogating personal histories as they relate to wider familial and social systems. Contemplating devotion and loss with revolutionary sensitivity, what results is a stunning work of emotion-mapping. Cells is a dazzling exploration of nuance; pondering the formative threads that piece together the self, sewing a new lineage of interconnectedness towards acceptance.’

-- Peter Scalpello, author of Limbic

‘A life recollected in vivid scenes, Cells is both brutal and tender in its depiction of the relationships that shape a self. Leading the reader through moments of darkness and of luminosity alike, this is a work of intellect and eloquence, but also a work of great heart. I was deeply moved as I read, and so grateful that this book found its way to me.’

-- Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of A Ghost in the Throat

‘McCrea is one of Ireland’s best contemporary authors.’

-- Sara Baume * Irish Examiner *

‘Using the fine brushstrokes of his relationship with his mother, Gavin McCrea creates a remarkable self-portrait which becomes, then, a portrait of our times. This memoir will comfortably sit alongside other great Irish memoirs of recent decades, not least the work of Nuala O’Faolain, Hugo Hamilton, and John McGahern. This is a brave book, beautifully written, fearless, vulnerable, self-aware, honest, and not without moments of intimate levity. McCrea is prepared to express his rage at how the world has unfurled around him, but he does so with delicacy and love and a daring sense of invention.’

-- Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon

‘Honest, moving, raw, and unsparing this memoir makes you think and feel. With Cells, Gavin McCrea has established himself as one of Ireland’s finest writers.’

-- Paul McVeigh, author of The Good Son

‘An unflinching memoir about interiority, in multiple senses of the word, and the ways in which shame and trauma inflect the spaces of our material lives. Gavin McCrea’s writing is attentive and deeply intelligent; it teems with the life of its subject, refrains from glumness or easy answers, and all with an elegance that makes Cells a captivating read.’

-- Jack Parlett, author of Fire Island

‘Gavin McCrea has written a succession of cells that open up a world of wonder. As smart as it is witty, this memoir grips in a journey that will make the reader feel, understand, and, on top of that, marvel at the cost of love and the things people need do to survive.’

-- Gillian Slovo, author of Every Secret Thing

‘Gavin McCrea’s wonderful memoir Cells is aptly named. His writing gets under the skin and drills through the bone and into the marrow of what pain and joy it is to be a mother and to be that very particular mother’s child.’

-- Tish Delaney, author of The Saint of Lost Things

‘Raw, courageous, and heartfelt … a brutal, tender book, and one which merits reading with all the same attention and care with which it is written.’

* Totally Dublin *

‘He writes beautifully.’

-- Orna Mulcahy * The Gloss *
‘A riveting, deeply considered memoir … as with the best memoirs (Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody? is one touchstone) McCrea uses his own life as a springboard to discuss wider Irish society … From the wonderful prologue that will instantly hook readers, to the many surprising twists introduced without fanfare throughout the book, Cells is an excavation of the past by a writer who knows exactly what he’s doing.’ -- Sarah Gilmartin * The Irish Times *

‘A writer of enormous talent and courage, Gavin McCrea’s Cells is the kind of book you can’t put down ... The kind of book you’ll never forget, the kind of book you’ll press on other readers so you can discuss it together.’

-- Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells

‘A visceral and searching memoir where the author displays seemingly inexhaustible strength in revealing his vulnerability.’

-- Brendan Daly * The Sunday Business Post *

‘In its ungarnished prose and loud inner voice, Cells stitches raw memories with new meanings to craft a brilliant composite of a son’s unexamined relationship with his mother. The memoir pairs McCrea’s unspoken shame with his private sanctums to show how it’s these cells — physical or fantastical — where we sometimes finally find the words to speak.’

-- Nathan Smith * The Saturday Paper *

‘[Q]uite fearlessly, McCrae lays it all bare … [Cells is] brave; brilliantly written; almost unbearably raw and frank; but also tender and sweet.’

-- Peta Stavelli * NZ Booklovers *

‘In this exceptional memoir, McCrea (Mrs. Engels) unflinchingly untangles his family’s history and its effects on his adult self … a powerful and complicated reckoning with the ghosts of family dysfunction. This one isn’t easy to shake.’

-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘A harrowing but ultimately very rewarding read.’

-- Martín Von Hildebrand * The Sunday Business Post *

Praise for The Sisters Mao:

‘McCrea’s portrait of Jiang Qing is a masterpiece of characterisation: at once monstrous and pitiable. The Sisters Mao is dazzlingly clever and original.’

-- Antonia Senior * The Times *

Praise for The Sisters Mao:

The Sisters Mao is a spectacular novel, utterly enthralling and insightful; every voice is penetrating, dazzling. In spite of the setting, it is full of relevance for these times; it manages to be both historically authentic and thrillingly contemporary. Gavin is a writer of extraordinary talent, and I cannot think of a kind of reader who I would not recommend this novel to.’

-- Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither

Praise for The Sisters Mao:

‘McCrea has conducted exceptionally deep research to conjure up nuanced, authentic portrayals of the worlds of the book — but the text carries his knowledge lightly, supporting rather than dominating the story. The Sisters Mao is the best sort of historical fiction; one that illuminates the contemporary moment with great insight. Profoundly brilliant, it will no doubt be a huge contender on the literary awards circuit, but also one that is pushed feverishly from reader to reader with excitement.’

-- Helen Cullen * The Irish Times *

Praise for Mrs Engels:

‘[Gavin McCrea] deserves praise for his command of voice in Mrs Engels … This is the best kind of historical fiction — oozing period detail, set in a milieu populated by famous figures and events about which much is known, but seen through the eyes of a central character who, due to her illiteracy, left no ready access to her experience in the form of letters or diary entries: a rich and accomplished first novel.’

-- Lucy Scholes * The Independe

  • Short-listed for The Polari Prize 2023 (UK)

ISBN: 9781914484988

Dimensions: 198mm x 129mm x 20mm

Weight: unknown

336 pages