Review 2027: Small Things Like These

It’s 1985, and Ireland isn’t doing well financially, but Bill Furlong is just about keeping his head above water with his coal business. He is a moody man, the son of an unwed mother who was lucky enough to be kept on by her employer, Mrs. Wilson, instead of being sent away when she was pregnant. Mrs. Wilson also paid for his education and helped set him up in business. Still, he wonders who his father is and if this is all there is to life.

Shortly before Christmas, he delivers an order of coal to the convent, which runs a laundry and a school for girls. There are rumors about fallen women being forced to work there and to give up their babies. But other rumors say the nuns do the laundry.

Locked in the coal shed, he finds a dirty, barefoot girl. When he takes her to the door of the convent, the nuns send her for a bath and invite her for tea. She comes in later and says the girls were playing a game with her. Bill is later ashamed of himself for saying nothing, even though she begged him to ask about her baby.

When he tries to speak to his wife about the incident, she is clear that he should not cross the nuns. So are other people. But he reflects that it would have been his own mother in the same situation 40 years ago.

At 114 pages, this novel is short, really a novella, and moody, seriously examining the subject of people’s responsibilities to others. It is purely written, pared down to its basics. A note at the end provides statistics about the Magdalen laundries, the last of which didn’t shut down until 1996.

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4 thoughts on “Review 2027: Small Things Like These

  1. thecontentreader September 15, 2022 / 5:27 am

    Sounds really intriguing and emotional. Will look for it. You have had so many good books to review lately. My reading list becomes longer and longer.

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