Shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize
"A hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time." —Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers
Small Things Like These is award-winning author Claire Keegan's landmark new novel, a tale of one man's courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
An international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.
Irish story writer Keegan's gorgeously textured second novella (after Foster) centers on a family man who wants to do the right thing. It's almost Christmas in a small town south of Dublin, Ireland, in 1985. Bighearted coal dealer Bill Furlong makes deliveries at all hours, buys dinner for his men, plays Santa Claus for the local children, and cares for his five daughters along with his wife, Eileen. Meanwhile, rumors circulate about the "training school" at a nearby convent, suggesting it's a front for free labor by young unwed mothers to support a laundry service, but no one wants to rock the boat. When Bill is there on a delivery, a teenage girl begs him to take her with him, and he politely makes excuses. He also notices broken glass topping the walls. Eileen tells him to "stay on the right side of people," but he feels he should do something—not just because he imagines his own daughters imprisoned there, but because he was born to a 16-year-old unwed mother who could have suffered a similar fate. Keegan beautifully conveys Bill's interior life as he returns to the house where he was raised ("Wasn't it sweet to be where you were and let it remind you of the past... despite the upset"). It all leads to a bittersweet culmination, a sort of anti–Christmas Carol, but to Bill it's simply sweet. Readers will be touched.
However…..this is a 36 page short story not a 128 page short novel as described. Very disappointing. That said, this is a sensitive, moving, beautifully written story.
Small Things Like These
I loved the writing, but the ending was not satisfactory. Too short but very moving.
Moving, evocative story.