Christmas 1985 for the Furlongs and their small Irish town is unexceptional. Bill Furlong delivers coal and collects payments, his wife bakes, and their five daughters attend choir practice, write to Santa, and finish their school exercises. But there’s more going on below this ordinary surface. When Bill opens the convent’s coal house, he finds one of the “girls in training” there. Disoriented, cold, dirty, and barefoot, Sarah begs Bill to help her escape. He takes her back to the nuns as he feels he should but, instead of dismissing the incident like a dutiful Catholic, he broods over what, in addition to its other unsettling elements, reminds him of both his daughters’ vulnerabilities and his own situation as the son of an unwed mother who never divulged his father’s identity. As he gets more involved with Sarah, he rethinks the way he’s been taught to do things. From the opening page’s “long November winds,” Keegan’s novel brims with heart and exquisite craft—it only looks small.
Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan