The Bossy Bookworm
Review of Foster by Claire Keegan
Keegan offers a gorgeously wrought Irish story of childhood, hope, love, and loss that is spare, lovely, heartbreaking, and that brought me to tears.
“You don’t ever have to say anything," he says. "Always remember that as a thing you need never do. Many’s the man lost much just because he missed a perfect opportunity to say nothing.”
In Claire Keegan's slim novel Foster, a young girl in Ireland is taken by her unreliable, frequently drunk gambler of a father to spend the hot summer with previously unknown-to-her relatives, a couple living on a rural farm.
Her bitter mother has just had another baby, and her various other siblings are fighting for resources. Her home life is hectic, hardscrabble, and emotionally cold, but she has never known life to be any other way.
It’s a hard feeling but as we walk along I begin to settle and let the difference between my life at home and the one I have here be.
The loving, affectionate household in the country allows her to feel more open and secure than she has before. She has plenty to eat, useful work to do, she learns to love books, she finds laughter. She can't help wondering if she might possibly be here to stay of if she'll be thrust back into her rough home, and which she'd prefer. Summer is ending, and there's a mysterious, unspoken, dark undercurrent at the Kinsellas'.
I absolutely adored this book. It's beautiful, spare, and powerful. I was brought to tears at the end. I'm in for all Claire Keegan books forever now and just ordered her story collection Antarctica through my local bookstore.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
I loved Claire Keegan's novel Small Things Like These, about Irish-small-town coal salesman Bill Furlong. Each of his small choices build to a crescendo of spilled secrets and an upended decades-old system of cruelties and greed. You can check out my Bossy review of Small Things Like These here.
Keegan is also the author of the story collections Antarctica and Walk the Blue Fields as well as the novella The Forester's Daughter, all of which I plan to read.