Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes, by Martha Long would not have been a book that I would have purchased for myself. I am more of a mystery book, suspense book reader. But the title of this particular book intrigued me. It is an autobiography, one that is very difficult to read, both for the content and the language idioms it is written in.
The Authors note inside the front cover sealed the deal. She writes, "This is a true story of my early childhood. Originally, I did not write it for publication. Instead, my intention was to rid myself of the voice of the little girl I had once been."
So what made me pick up this book from the stack of many others?
An In-depth Look at "Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes"
There are parts of this book that will make you laugh and parts that will make you cry. The realities are something that we (middle-class people) would have a hard time wrapping our heads around. What is evident is the character strength of this young girl. Her mother (I give her that title only because she bore Martha) is a young girl herself, who hasn't fully developed her own character or had much opportunity to develop her mind. She is at the whim of any man who will pay her some attention. She is a teen with a baby. Her family can't help her and she can't seem to help herself. Her own self-worth seems to be wrapped up and dependent on having a man in her life. Any man will do, she's not fussy. Before long she has two children and hooks up with yet another man, who preys on her and her children. She finds herself pregnant again, Martha is only 5 years old and already taking care of her brother and more. "Jackster" the "father-figure" and I use that term very loosely too, beats up on the mom and Martha. He is a drunkard, down on his "luck" and totally abusive when life doesn't go according to his plan.
This story is one that will leave you shaking your head at the brutality and yet admiring the strength of character in this little girl. Things go from bad to worse, she's angry with God, she's angry with her mom, she's angry with Jackster. She is very angry at the whole world. Yet through all this anger, she comes to be the strongest one. She sees with eyes that are so much more mature than her years.
This book is a reality I had known nothing about and had a hard time understanding. I was fortunate to grow up in a country that made it easy for my parents to look after us. There were jobs and work for anyone who wanted to earn their way through life. There was also a moral compass, there were lines that would not be crossed. Not so much in Martha's life, with poverty and no drive to make life better, the moral compass goes out the window. Anything and everything in life is negotiable, for a few slices of bread or a few cigarettes.
So many people today, are still in the midst of the same downward spiral of what life must have been like for Martha in Ireland. There are those in places that are being destroyed by factions that want power over the people at any cost. This book made me pause and think about all the young girls in the world. The girls in Africa and India, where they are married at 7 or 8 years of age. They will endure the same bonds that held Martha captive for so long. We are not a better world today than the world Martha lived in back in the 50's.
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At the end of the day,I'm really glad that this book grabbed my attention. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride that will take you out of your comfort zone many times. Martha Long in trying to get that little girl out of her mind, has opened up a window to a world that I never knew existed. For that, I would like to thank her. I'm sure that it was not an easy book to write and I pray that she has found some peace.
This book gave me reasons to be Thankful for where I live, for food, friends, and family that protect and hold me dear. It makes me stop and realize that not everyone is so blessed and that I have every need to be totally Thankful for all the blessings I have in my life.
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