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Small Things Like These
What’s it about? Bill Furlong is a coal and timber merchant in a small town in Ireland. It is 1985 and the Catholic Church is a powerful presence in Ireland. As Christmas Day approaches Bill finds himself reminiscing about the past as he struggles with the Christian love in his heart. What did it make me think about? Does this story really take place in 1985? Should I read it? This is a beautifully written book. Claire Keegan joins a long list of Irish writers that should not be missed. She has written a revelatory character in Bill Furlong. How she manages to convey so much in 114 pages is astonishing. Even more powerful is the fact that it is loosely based on the Magdalen laundries that the Catholic Church ran in Ireland all the way up to 1996. How was that even possible? This is literary fiction at its best! Quote- “Always it was the same, Furlong thought; always they carried mechanically on without pause, to the next job at hand. What would life be like, he wondered, if they were given time to think and reflect over things? Might their lives be different or much the same- or would they just lose the run of themselves? Even while he’d been creaming the butter and sugar, his mind was not so much upon the here and now and on this Sunday nearing Christmas with his wife and daughters so much as on tomorrow and who owed what, and how and when he’d deliver what was ordered and what man he’d leave to which task, and how and where he’d collect what was owed- and before tomorrow was coming to an end, he knew his mind would already be working in much the same way, yet again, over the day that was to follow”.
“It was comforting, somehow, sitting beside the small boy who was able to navigate their precise location in the vastness. The stars, rather than appearing distant and implacable, seemed to be signal fires in the dark, mysterious fellow travelers lighting a path; one hundred thousand luminous presences beckoning from worlds away. See us. We are here. We have always been here. We will always be here.”
"To me that says I had a fighting chance. Long odds, yes I know. If a mother is lying in her own piss and pill bottles while they're slapping the kid she's shunted out, telling him to look alive: likely the bastard is doomed. Kid born to the junkie is a junkie. He'll grow up to be everything you don't want to know, the rotten teeth and dead-zone eyes, the nuisance of locking up your tools in the garage so they don't walk off, the rent-by-the-week motel squatting well back from the scenic highway. This kid, if he wanted a shot at the finer things, should have got himself delivered to some rich or smart or Christian, nonusing type of mother. Anybody will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose."
The Return of Faraz Ali
"Was this what aging was? Not the lines, not the muscles turning flaccid or the skin drying out. It was the way in which the defeats of your life showed themselves; the evidence of your surrender in the listlessness of your eyes. She realized she didn't care as much as she thought she would, and this, too, was a surprise. Really when she looked at her life, what had her beauty ever brought her?"