I learned of this book from this post by Heavenali. A two hour audio book is something I’m almost always up for. Short story? Short novella? I’m not sure. That it is by an Irish author and available during Reading Ireland Month is just a bonus. I also watched a horrifying documentary about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland so the story caught my interest. I also recalled a book in the e’80s by columnist Art Buchwald and his wife Anne that told, among other things, of adopting their son from Ireland–the connection was chilling.
Bill Furlong, born to an unwed mother and raised in the “Big House” (well-off home) of his mother’s employer is now, in 1985, married with several daughters. It is Christmas Eve. As he makes the last coal deliveries he takes a load to the convent–where there is a laundry, a Magdalene laundry. He meets a girl, Sarah, who has been shut up, barefoot and insufficiently clothed in the coal shed. The nun who greets him attempts to gloss over the event.
His childhood had been decent–his mother’s employer kind and treated him like a member of her own family. Now his own home life is decent–a nice wife, daughters he loves, but in the back of his mind is the same doubt all children deprived of both parents have: who am I? Who is my father? A holiday visit may provide a clue–or may not. Does it?
Can Bill listen to a town busybody lecture on not getting on the wrong side of the nuns and not do anything about the situation in which he found that girl? Can he call himself a Christian if….[No Spoilers]
I felt a little cheated at the end, but in a good way. Surely this was the set up for a longer story–a real book? There is so much here! Identity, injustice, social norms, moral indignation–you name it–all packed into a scant 70 pages (2 hours of audio). I had to stop myself
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan