Sunday, 23 June 2013

Claire Keegan - Foster


The first confusion is the cover and the title. Almost monochromatic, some children and ‘Foster’ written across in big letters. I was ready to dismiss it as another product of misery lit but before I turned away I noticed something about the ‘New Yorker’. As it turns out, Claire Keegan is an accomplished writer and ‘Foster’ appeared as a short story in the New Yorker before it appeared in a slightly expanded version as a stand-alone book. For a publisher to do something as reckless as to publish one short story in a separate book must mean it’s a true gem.

The second confusion are the Irishisms - ‘What way are you?’ – how that confused me at first before I figured out it’s just Irish for ‘how are you?’.

From then on I could just sit back, relax and enjoy this little thing. I remember I was reading it late at night, home alone, sprawled on the sofa, wondering if the rain will lull me to sleep before I finish reading.

Keegan’s writing is very delicate and unassuming. This book would step back and let me sleep if I needed to. It would then gently penetrate the periphery of my dreams.
In one of the interviews Keegan said: "It's essentially about trusting in the reader's intelligence rather than labouring a point. To work on the level of suggestion is what I aim for in all my writing."

What we know of the story is what we filled the gaps with. A little girl is brought by her father to spend the summer with the Kinsellas on a farm. Only through her reactions we learn how different her life at home is to what she experiences with her temporary foster parents. It’s a different sort of farm and a different sort of parents. For those summer months she is the only child suddenly, valued, appreciated and cherished. Yet, there is no gut-wrenching drama (that the cover would imply). The most emotional moment for me was a scene at the beach where the girl was taken by her foster father. On the way back he is trying to retrace his steps but he can’t find his own footprints, only the girl’s. So he says

“You must have carried me there.”

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