Maria's Pick: "Small Things Like These" by Claire Keegan
Dedicated to “ the women and children who suffered time in Ireland’s Magdalen laundries”, there is just so much packed into this beautifully written novella by Claire Keegan that I felt compelled to read it twice!
The story is set in a small and struggling Irish town in the mid-1980’s. Bill Furlong, his wife, Eileen, and their five daughters are preparing for Christmas. Furlong works hard as a coal merchant to keep his family afloat but also counts his blessings. He knows that as the son of an unwed teenage mother who worked as a servant, his life could have been much more difficult save for the kindness of the widow for whom she worked.
So when Furlong makes a horrifying discovery while delivering coal to the local convent, he is not able to shake off what he has seen. As others discourage him from taking action, it becomes evident that the whole town is complicit in their silence regarding the treatment of the unfortunate young women who live and work there. Furlong knows that he must do the right thing.
Claire Keegan is a master storyteller. Because of its gentle descriptive language and the author’s keen ability to draw the reader into the experience of life alongside the characters, this was one of my favorite books of the year. I may just read it again on some cold and cozy evening.