Can you read and write? I can.

Redemption Road

by Lisa Ballatyne

A NetGalley Review

A small baby – Margaret aka Molly – is adopted, and is loved and happy. But she has a real father who didn’t know what had happened to her – he was also in prison – but he knows her name is Peggy and has it tattooed on his chest.

George has not had a happy life and one major issue has been his illiteracy. The origins of this illiteracy began at school where the nuns who taught him believed that being left-handed was a sign of the devil –  the Devil is normally portrayed as being left-handed in pictures and other images –  and forced him to write with his right hand. This was a very common belief up until not very long ago – see below for other beliefs about being left-handed:

  • In the seventeenth century it was thought that the Devil baptised his followers with his left-hand and there are many references in superstitions to the “left-hand side” being associated with evil. As an example, in France it was held that witches greet Satan “avec le bras gauche” or with the left hand. It is also considered that we can only see ghosts if we look over our left shoulder and that the Devil watches us over the left shoulder. Evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder – throw salt over this shoulder to ward them off. In Roman times, salt was a very valuable commodity, giving rise to the word “salary” and was considered a form of money at the time. If salt was spilled, that was considered very bad luck, that could only be avoided by throwing some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder to placate the devil. Joan of Arc (burned at the stake in 1431 for being a heretic and a witch) was not necessarily left-handed, she may have been depicted in this way to make her seem evil.
  • Getting out of bed with the left foot first means that you will have a bad day and be bad tempered . i.e. getting out of bed the wrong side.
  • A ringing in the right ear means that someone is praising you. In the left ear it means that someone is cursing or maligning you.
  • An itchy right palm means that you will receive money. An itchy left palm means you will have to give money.
  • Wedding rings worn on the third finger of the left hand originated with the Greeks and Romans, who wore them to fend of evil associated with the left-hand The Romans originally considered the left to be the lucky side and used for augury. However, they later changed back to the Greek methods and favoured the right-hand side.
  • The right hand often symbolises ‘male’ while the left hand is ‘female’.
  • If you hear the sound of a cuckoo from the right it will be a lucky year. If the sound comes from the left it will be unlucky.
  • The Meru people of Kenya believed that the left-hand of their holy man has such evil power that he had to keep it hidden for the safety of others.
  • If your right eye twitches you will see a friend, if it’s your left eye that twitches you’ll see an enemy.
  • When dressmaking it’s believed to be bad luck to sew the left-hand sleeve onto a garment before the right sleeve.
  • When leaving to go on a journey, if your right foot itches you’re bound to have a good journey. If your left foot itches it will end in sorrow.
  • It is thought to be bad luck to pass a drink to another person with your left-hand or anti-clockwise around a table. -( See more at: http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/being-lh/lh-info/myths.html#sthash.aTTIzUJF.dpuf)

Additionally, most pens and other common utensils are intended for right-handed people and the type of writing that can be undertaken by left-handed people is not as neat. Western writing runs from left to right. A left-handed person has to ‘crab’ their hand in order to write without smudging the ink.

Left-handed children learning to write often write back to front (‘mirror’ writing). This is a natural inclination, not a sign of dyslexia, and will resolve given time, practice and encouragement. (http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Left-handedness?OpenDocument)

Yet many right-handed people don’t write neatly either – I remember having my knuckles rapped by a ruler because my writing wasn’t neat so imagine being left handed in these situations.

But for the father no such encouragement was given at school. He remains unable to read and write and believes he has a learning difficulty and is not very bright. This has led him to life of crime as he couldn’t get employment otherwise.

It is still very poorly understood why some 10% of the population is left-handed but it does seem to run in families and thus is could be inherited. It is more common in males than females.

So in this book, the father comes out of prison and wants to meet his child and to learn about her and perhaps be involved in her life. But this is where everything goes wrong.

As she grows up Margaret doesn’t remember her real father and her meeting with him, and the events that followed. She suffered from traumatic amnesia (psychogenic or dissasociative) and bad nightmares. The event clearly affected her badly – but why?

The father finds Molly – as he knows her – and attempts to talk to her but ends up taking her on a journey.

This is a significant journey for both of them but for a small child traumatic and it is very slowly that Margaret remembers about being Molly and integrates her life experiences.

I thought this was an interesting story and enjoyed reading it. 4 stars.

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