Day 517: The Empty Family

Cover for The Empty FamilyIn this collection of short stories, Colm Toíbín writes empathetically about the human condition. People remember how they have loved, their desire, their loneliness.

In the only historical fiction story, “Silence,” Lady Gregory tells Henry James a tale over dinner. Even though her story is not true, it encapsulates a kind of truth about her relationship with her lover during her marriage to her much older husband.

In “The Empty Family,” a man returns to a seaside village in Ireland after years of absence in California. He meets some old friends and considers his former life in that town and the life he just left.

In my favorite story, “Two Women,” an elderly Irish set dresser remembers her affair with the only man she ever loved. One day on the set where she is working, she meets his widow, the woman who married him after they parted.

In “One Minus One,” a man returns home to be with his dying mother. He is full of regret and longing because she never cared much for him.

These stories are precisely written, sad, and evocative.

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8 thoughts on “Day 517: The Empty Family

  1. Carolyn O May 9, 2014 / 12:26 pm

    I’d like to do a short story month sometime this year, and this book is definitely going on the list. Thanks for the review!

    • whatmeread May 9, 2014 / 12:28 pm

      If you want some quirky ones, Karen Russell has a couple of volumes of short stories. They’re definitely odd, though. The one I read was St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She also has one I haven’t read called Vampires in the Lemon Trees (or something like that).

      • Carolyn O May 9, 2014 / 3:17 pm

        I have the first one, just haven’t read it yet. I like quirky.

      • whatmeread May 9, 2014 / 3:20 pm

        They are definitely odd. I liked her novel better overall, but some of them are very good. Some of them are funny.

  2. Alina (literaryvittles) May 9, 2014 / 4:30 pm

    It’s nice to read short stories from time to time 🙂 They’re a nice change from full-length novels.

  3. Cecilia May 9, 2014 / 5:37 pm

    This sounds great. I have one of his other collections but was not familiar with this one. I’d also love to read and review more short stories.

    • whatmeread May 10, 2014 / 9:47 am

      Yes, I keep thinking I should do that, too.

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