Book review: "Foster" by Claire Keegan

Though Keegan's output is scarce and her stories as spare, they still manage to evoke raw emotion from readers. Her deep attunement with the moral issues raised by meanness in life have led some people compare them remindingly of Anton Chekhov or William Trevor; but what makes this author so special? Though she shares their keen sense empathy for others' feelings along side an eye that enjoys telling detail just like those writers did before her (itself comparable), it isn't enough on its own without something more substantial than style choices.

Keegan's output is scarce and her stories are as spare as they're heartrending, whittled down to the essential. If she has published anything that isn't perfect I haven’t seen it yet but this new standalone volume presents us with a fuller text than any other American publication or Irish translation thus far.

Ireland's favorite daughter, Claire Keegan is one of Europe’s most prominent writers. Her stories are sparse but deeply felt; they resonate with empathy and attention to detail like no other author I've read before or since— Anton Chekhov comparisons seem appropriate when you consider how many similarities there undoubtedly were between these two great masters (and male ones at that!) who specialized in plays about socially dispossessed people living minute-to foot down decades ago.

The nameless narrator of "Foster" is a little girl whose parents, impoverished Catholic farmers already overwhelmed by too many children and the father's bad habits bring her out to distant relatives she has never met when his pregnant wife goes into labor. She expects either kindness or hard work from these people but cannot guess what will happen next in this tractor accident story told through time periods over summer Sundays on their way home after Mass while driving deep into Wexford towards where my mother came from.

The girl is sent to live with distant relatives she has never met before in a world where hard work is the norm and kindness can be scarce.