Small Things Like These
December 2021 Indie Next List
— John Lynn, The Kennett Bookhouse, Kennett Square, PA
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Shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize
"A hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time." --Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers
Small Things Like These is award-winning author Claire Keegan's landmark new novel, a tale of one man's courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.
Grove Press, 9780802158741, 128pp.
Publication Date: November 30, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Early in the novel, Furlong reflects on the movements of his family as they prepare for Christmas dinner. “Always it was the same … they carried mechanically on, without pause, to the next job at hand. What would life be like, he wondered, if they were given time to think and to reflect over things?” How do the events that follow echo this meditation from Furlong?
2. Furlong grew up poor and provides for his family what he lacked as a child. Still, they are not rich. Why do you think Claire Keegan chose this man for her protagonist? What special insight do you think Furlong has that encourages his decision to return to the coal shed?
3. Small Things Like These occurs in just a few short weeks. Why do you think Claire Keegan chose to make the narrative so compact? How does the short sprint toward Christmas add to the climax of the novel?
4. After first meeting Sarah, Furlong sits alone in his truck before going “like a hypocrite, to mass.” As her author note indicates, the Magdalene Laundries, where Sarah lives, were funded by both the Irish State and the Catholic Church. What role does religion play in this novel?
5. In many ways, Eileen balances Furlong. “You’re soft-hearted, is all. Giving away what change is in your pocket,” she says to him in bed, the night he returns from the Magdalene Laundries. Discuss her reaction to Furlong’s prolonged anxiety. Do you agree with her idea that they ought to just “soldier on?”
6. In her note on the text, Claire Keegan, acknowledges the closing, in 1996, of the last Magdalene Laundry. At the end of her note, she quotes from the Proclamation of the Irish Republic: “The Irish Republic … declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.” Why do you think she juxtaposed these two facts? What resonance does this have with us today?