Mothers and Sons, by Colm Tóibín
8/10, a melancholy collection of stories of Irish families
Tóibín, author of Brooklyn, penned this collection of stories about families in Ireland. Loosely following the theme of mothers and sons, he tracks happy and sad families--but mostly sad.
The overriding theme, actually, seems to be "things aren't great, but we'd rather they not change." The characters in the stories are presented with opportunities to change their lives, to learn something, and in nearly every case, they put aside that chance.
That doesn't make the stories bad. They're engaging and interesting, written with Tóibín's lovely touch with language, if not the humor of "Brooklyn."
Every day he had planned his return [from military service], longed for it in detail, lived in the ordinary future where the smallest domestic detail--the sound of a jeep starting up, a chainsaw, a hunter's gun, or a dog's bark--would signify that he had returned, that he had survived. He had imagined this homecoming in all its satisfying comfort and freedom so closely that he had put no thought into how soon [his younger brother] Jordi's turn would come, how soon his brother would have to submit himself to the humiliation of the haircut and the standing in the cold waiting for the lorry to take him to Lerida. Miquel knew how bad it would be for his brother, and it was as though some more vulnerable and innocent part of him were going to have the haircut, leaving an empty bed behind.
I have remarked before on the uniqueness of Irish writing. If you enjoy it, then this collection will not disappoint you. It's a beautifully-written, sad world that is worth visiting.