Small Things Like These; Claire Keegan
Grove Press - 2021
I borrow this book from the library before Christmas and although it's short, just a (114 pages), I returned it unread --Big Mistake as I loved this book!
Set in the month approaching Christmas 1985, Bill Furlong a hardworking coal and wood merchant lives with his wife and (5) young, delightful daughters in New Ross, Ireland.
One day on a rare Sunday delivery at a local convent Bill witnesses something deeply troubling. The convent operates a laundry business (Magdalene Laundries - operated until 1996). It was also a home for wayward girls. Bill cannot stop thinking about this situation and, unfortunately, his wife doesn't seem as moved by the situation he describes to her.
Bill is a decent man who never knew who his father was. His mother gave birth to him at the age of sixteen and, she was lucky enough to be taken in by her kind employer, Mrs. Wilson and given a place to live with her infant son Bill. I loved learning about Bill's early life and what a strong influence Mrs. Wilson seemed to play on his moral compass growing up. I thought his young daughters were delightful and bright as well. I was less moved by his wife.
Small Things Like These is a powerful little gem with a strong message. It is beautifully written and although I loved the ending, I wanted the story to be longer, I just hated to see this one end. I plan to now read other books by this author as well. READ IT!
Rating - 5/5 stars
- “The next year, when he’d won first prize for spelling and was given a wooden pencil-case whose sliding top doubled as a ruler, Mrs Wilson had rubbed the top of his head and praised him, as though he was one of her own. ‘You’re a credit to yourself,’ she’d told him. And for a whole day or more, Furlong had gone around feeling a foot taller, believing, in his heart, that he mattered as much as any other child.”
- “He found himself asking was there any point in being alive without helping one another?”
- “He thought of Mrs Wilson, of her daily kindnesses, of how she had corrected and encouraged him, of the small things she had said and done and had refused to do and say and what she must have known, the things which, when added up, amounted to a life. Had it not been for her, his mother might very well have wound up in that place....”
- “People could be good, Furlong reminded himself, as he drove back to town; it was a matter of learning how to manage and balance the give-and-take in a way that let you get on with others as well as your own. But as soon as the thought came to him, he knew the thought itself was privileged and wondered why he hadn’t given the sweets and other things he’d been gifted at some of the houses to the less well-off he had met in others. Always, Christmas brought out the best and the worst in people.”