Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These is a perfectly crafted novela with a social justice message that every writer should read. In only 118 pages, Irish author Claire Keegan develops her characters, immerses the reader in a multi-sensory setting, and builds a moral dilemma with the depth of a much longer classic. 

The story takes place over Christmas of 1985, but the cozy Irish village setting is timeless and the characters Dickensian. Coal merchant Bill Furlong strives to be a good husband and father, having lost his mother at a young age without learning the identity of his father. Although a child born out of wedlock to a domestic servant is an unlikely hero in a Catholic town, Bill's ability to empathize with others makes him extraordinary and well appreciated. His charitable instincts also create conflicts at home given limited resources for five daughters. 

The drama steps up a notch when Bill witnesses an atrocity, a not so secret crime thinly shrouded in lies and complicity, that shakes the foundations of his faith. His moral quandary ignites the pleasantly languid story with burning energy, making you wonder not only what Bill will do but also what would you do yourself in a similar situation. The resolution is as messy as real life but deeply satisfying. This is character driven literary fiction at its best.

As soon as I finished, I wanted to reread from the beginning. I was so caught up in the story that I forgot to analyze the quiet, masterful writing. Not a single word was out of place. My husband enjoyed the authentically voiced audiobook so much that he bought the hardcover from our local bookstore to add to our personal library. We plan to listen to another of her books together. With its gorgeous woodblock print cover, Small Things Like These would certainly make an excellent Christmas gift. 

Thanks, Maria Padian, for recommending this marvelous book to us!

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@Barrie Summy