When There is no Love
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
Children are our future; they should be loved, nurtured and most importantly, protected. They should be protected from many things, including physical harm as well as psychological harm. Children who lose the care and protection of their parents are vulnerable to many threats in life and they suffer due to the wrongdoings of adults, especially irresponsible parents. The wrongdoings of adults often affect children in a terrible way and the outcomes may often be devastating. The damage or the trauma such children have to go through may be lifetime, unless they are addressed at an early stage. In such cases, these children are often removed from their abusive parents and given to the care of foster parents.
The story of Stevie a 14-year-old boy is a heart-touching story, written by award winning American writer Cathy Glass. I read the Sinhala translation of this book by Ushmi Meegahage, translated Me Mamada (Is this me?). I bought two of Glass’ novels’ Sinhala translations by the same translator, Meegahage at the Colombo International Book Fair and finished reading both, at a stretch. The other book was titled Nidahasa Soya Giyemi (I Journeyed Towards Freedom); the original name of the book was Run, Mummy, Run. The covers of these books were attractive and expressive. As I had already heard of the American writer Glass, I was excited to see her books translated into Sinhala.
A translator with experience
I have the habit of investigating the translator before buying a translation to make sure the original essence is well preserved in the translation. Meegahage was not a new name for Sinhala readers, as I remember reading the much- acclaimed novel by Robin Cook, The Fever, translated into Sinhala as Hima Bime Nomidunu Vila by her. Therefore, I had faith in the style of the translator.
Finding Stevie and Run, Mummy, Run are two of Glass’s best-selling novels and it is indeed wonderful that Sinhalese readers now have the opportunity to read them in their own mother tongue.
I was lucky enough to read the English novels too. Hence, reading the Sinhala translations I felt that the translator had done justice to the original work. The same excitement, interest to read at a stretch, simple and clear language with an essence of compassion that touches the heart of the reader was intact in the translation.
This is a true story about a 14-year-old boy who is struggling with gender-fluidity and lives with his rather conservative grandfather. Abandoned by their drug addict and alcoholic mother who is in prison, Stevie and his younger siblings, Liam and Kiri are left under the care of their grandparents. However, Stevie’s “unconventional” behaviour irritates his grandfather. The conflict between Stevie and his grandparents leads the boy into many troubles. Finally he is sent to foster care. Glass is his new foster parent. Glass is a foster carer who narrates the true stories of the children she fosters. When Glass meets Stevie she has not come across anyone with gender-fluidity, therefore she learns quickly and adapts accordingly. Stevie’s mood swings and erratic behaviour patterns seem to be challenging at first. When Glass eventually discovers the source of Stevie’s problems, which is disturbing, her entire family supports Stevie through his difficult times.
At Glass’ place even though Stevie seems to be pretty normal as he attends school more often than before and his behaviour improves, she notices that something is not right. She notices that he is spending more time in solitude and on the internet, which worries her. Making things worse, he shuts himself off from the outer world, as Glass discovers horrifying secrets of his past, which broke him psychologically her love, care and unrelenting concern for him, helps him cope with his struggles.
Run, Mummy, Run
Run, Mummy, Run is an enthralling story of a young wife and mother, Aisha who is trapped in a horrific abusive marriage, and how she escapes from it. Aisha, an Indian girl born in the UK, lives with her overly-protective and conservative family. A banker by profession, Aisha marries the man of her dreams, Mark, which eventually turns out to be the biggest mistake of her life. Brought up in a typical conservative background which expects women to ‘accept’ their ill-fate, and accept the fact that their lives are being dominated by abusive males, Aisha finds it hard to understand and escape the domestic violence she faces. Her husband Mark is sorry for the first time he hits her, and his tears makes her feel sorry and guilty making her vow to become a ‘better wife’. Mark being a man with a violent temper and abusive nature, Aisha soon realises that her marriage is not to be ‘tolerated’ and the lives of hers and her children are in grave danger.
But Mark is a man who will not give up. What Aisha has to pay for her freedom and safety, is a high price and devastating. A story of shocking and terrifying true events, Run, Mummy, Run is a spellbinding book about a woman who finds courage and strength in order to be free. The emotional and heart-breaking story which is told in a factual light with a fast engrossing pace, narrated with empathy, runs throughout the Sinhala translation too, doing justice to the first novel.
What is special about Finding Stevie and Run, Mummy, Run?
It is really fascinating how Glass is able to capture the stories of troubled lives, their struggles and how to overcome them with love, care and courage. Her most recent work, Finding Stevie has great timely value as it is about gender-fluidity and how and why we should understand and see things from the perspective of others. Also her books tell us how a little touch of love and warmth can change the life of any person.
What is more gratifying is that the empathetic manner and sensitivity and also the sense of mystery that runs throughout Glass work is intact in the Sinhala translations by Meegahage. The translations are able to capture the reader until the end without any boredom. I indeed believe that Finding Stevie is a book that will change how you view the struggles of teenagers and young adults and those who struggle with identifying themselves.
Introducing two of Glass’ best novels to Sinhala readers, Finding Stevie and Run, Mummy, Run, Meegahage emphasised the timely value of these two books. “At present, many children and young adults go through mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety and various personality disorders, including struggles to identify their gender and sexuality, which are complicated, and most importantly, vital issues that should be addressed with patience and compassion. And unless you address such issues at an early stage, they might ruin the lives of children forever. Glass’ novels portray how adults should address such issues. The second novel, Run, Mummy, Run, is about a woman who struggles to escape an abusive marriage. The idea of tolerating and accepting relationships and marriages no matter how abusive and toxic they are, has ruined many lives of women and children, and even lives of men. Therefore, it is important to understand and support those who are trapped within such abusive and tortured lives. This novel also makes us understand why and how such victims would feel powerless and guilty which prevents them from leaving such marriages.”
The author, Cathy Glass
Glass is the author of Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller Damaged and many more bestsellers. She has been a foster carer for 25 years in the United Kingdom and till to date has fostered more than 150 children. Her first book Hidden was published in 2007. She has now published 17 memoirs based on her experience as a foster carer, each of those has reached the top ten in the non-fiction best-sellers chart in The Times.
“Not only as an author, even as a human being, a woman and a mother, Cathy is a wonderful person, full of love and compassion. Her patience, and love has helped these helpless children to thrive back”, was how the translator sees Glass.
The translator, Ushmi Meegahage
The translator of these two spellbinding novels is Meegahage, who previously gifted Robin Cook’s celebrated novel The Fever to Sinhala readers. Also, one of the famous Chicken Soup series was translated by Meegahage previously.
“I felt that reading and experiencing these wonderful stories is not enough. I wanted to share them with others, especially with Sri Lankan Sinhala readers. I wanted them to know Glass and experience what I experienced. I hope to translate another fascinating book next. I am reading some new books by Glass, books inspired by true stories of children and women. Once I choose one of those, I will translate it,” she concluded.
Meegahage also shared with us why she chose Glass. “Her stories are based on true events. They are inspirational. These stories gives us courage and hope.”