Grove. Nov. 2022. 128p. ISBN 9780802160140. $20. F
After arriving to stateside success with 2021’s compact but powerful Small Things Like These, another of Keegan’s books (a novella first published in Ireland and the UK in 2010) now makes its arrival. And much like last year’s release, it proves Keegan’s gift for demolishing rigid notions of packaged form. Despite running only a slim 90 pages, this work is an immensely powerful snapshot novel, affectingly communicating the emotional weight of personal history with an economy of language. Though it documents only a few weeks in the life of a young Irish girl who goes to stay with distant relatives while her mother gives birth to her latest child (of many) and her childhood awakening to the thorniness of life, this work mines the recesses of human fragility with a compassionate and deft pen, its combination of simple language and sweeping empathy landing with the force of a saga. But as with Small Things Like These, Keegan takes care here not to overenunciate the emotional stakes of her laconic narrative, forgoing any tilt toward the sensational or melodramatic that too often plagues short-form works. Instead, she allows her deeply humanistic story simply to wonder at the small joys and tragedies of humble lives.
VERDICT Keegan offers further evidence of her facility at imbuing short fiction with immense feeling and invoking a deceptively grand scale; a rich, compassionate work that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
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