Small Things Like These

Grove. Nov. 2021. 128p. ISBN 9780802158741. $22. F
The latest from multi-award-winning Irish novelist Keegan (Antarctica) indicts the social culture that enabled Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and brilliantly articulates a decent person’s struggle of conscience. In the weeks before Christmas in 1985, Bill Furlong, a New Ross coal and lumber merchant, fills nonstop fuel orders and observes holiday traditions with his wife and five daughters. During a delivery to a local convent, Bill discovers a disheveled girl, barefoot and in rags, locked in a coal shed. Bill has heard stories about the convent, how it shelters unseen girls who don’t attend the same school as his daughters. As the son of a single mother and an unknown father, Bill is used to stories and their power to undermine reputations earned through hard work and good deeds or to enforce silences. Despite this knowledge, or perhaps because of it, Bill makes a courageous choice on Christmas Eve that will reveal secrets kept by the people of New Ross.
VERDICT Keegan’s beautiful prose is quiet and precise, jewel-like in its clarity. Highly recommended.
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