Day 295: The Gathering

Cover for The GatheringA large family in Ireland is gathering together for the wake of their brother, Liam, who drowned. Veronica Hegarty, his sister, travels to London to collect the body and keep vigil with it.

This novel follows her consciousness as she thinks about her relationships with her own husband and the rest of her family and considers why her brother’s life turned out the way it did. She describes Liam as a “terrible messer,” who was an alcoholic and finally put stones into his pockets and walked into the sea.

She also remembers her grandmother Ada, and imagines scenes involving her grandmother’s relationship to Veronica’s grandfather and to another man when she was a young woman. Veronica muses about life growing up in her grandparents’ house and the connection with her brother’s secrets and troubles. She feels guilty that she did not help him and that no one sympathized with him when he was alive.

This novel is angry, heavy, and sometimes repels the reader. By page 55, I felt that the narrator was inordinately concerned with the mechanics of men’s penises. Still, it is an evocative story about a woman’s grief and her struggle to understand her brother.