by Sheena Wilkinson (Author)
Grounded is the follow-up to Sheena Wilkinson’s award-winning novel Taking Flight. It is an extremely well observed and well written account, which tells about the ongoing dilemmas and issues that 18-year-old Declan faces in his life. Fanatical about horses, all Declan dreams of is working in the yard of a top show-jumper. But other aspects of life get in the way. Declan must juggle his responsibilities as a boyfriend, as a son and as an employee.
In a blank, unelaborate way, Wilkinson manages to portray the bleakness of life in this disadvantaged part of Belfast, while not pitying her characters. By telling the story in Declan’s own voice, Wilkinson gets us to see it with the same matter-of-factness that he does, and to understand the circumstances that he is struggling with in his desire to improve himself, without it being exaggerated or didactic.
This first-hand account also allows us to catch glimpses of Declan’s thoughts, which are sometimes shockingly selfish. But it is this honesty which is really admirable in Wilkinson’s story. Her characters are portrayed warts and all, and give a true reflection of how real people live and survive.
Teenage pregnancy, suicide, animal cruelty, youth criminality, drug and alcohol addiction, all form part of the story without being overloaded on the reader. The contrast of the horses and what they represent is striking compared with the harrowing conditions in Tirconnell Parade where Declan lives. Ultimately, the book is about Declan finding his way through so that he can strike a balance in his life between the things that most matter to him and standing up to and recognising his responsibilities.