Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is really about the things that matter–human emotions, struggles, compassion and the courage to do the right thing.
Set in the year 1985 in a small Irish town, the story is centered on Bill Furlong and his wife Eileen and their five daughters. Bill, a coal and timber merchant, was born to a single mother and has had a tough childhood. He and his wife strive to provide the best to their daughters. As he goes about his routine, an early delivery at Magdalen Laundry and Training School opens his eyes to a truth which the residents have for long turned a blind eye to. He is left with two choices–either act upon the situation or pretend to be ignorant like the others.
There is nothing extraordinary about the characters or their lives–a bunch of regular people leading regular lives; and yet amongst them is Bill Furlong–a hero in his own remarkable way.
Magdalen Laundries forms the backdrop of the narration. I was unaware of Magdalen Laundries and a quick google search helped put things in perspective. I was horrified as I learnt about the institutions run by the Irish Church, meant for housing ‘fallen women.’ It is shocking that these atrocious institutions continued to torment and torture women for over 200 years, that too with the support of the state.
Small Things Like These is not a full-fledged novel, but the quality of writing makes up for the smaller number of pages. Keegan’s writing is brave, lyrical, and poised. The author has done a remarkable job of bringing the small Irish town alive in front of the readers. The usage of Irish dialect makes the narrative more authentic and relatable. The solemn and mundane lives, the harsh winter, and struggles to survive are narrated with profound honesty. Bill’s longing and love for his family is deep and touching.
If you are looking for a light-hearted, fun Christmas read, Small Things Like These is not the one. But if you are on the lookout for an impactful book which makes one think about the choices we make in our lives, then this is the one!
Wordsopedia Rating 4.5/5
|Title: Small Things Like These
|Author: Claire Keegan
|Publisher: Grove Atlantic
|Publication date: December 1, 2021
|Genre: Fiction – Contemporary Classic
|No. of Pages: 128
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About the Author
Claire Keegan is an Irish writer known for her award-winning short stories. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Best American Short Stories, Granta, and The Paris Review; and translated into 20 languages.