04 Mar / Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan [in Booklist]
Narrator Aidan Kelly persuasively transforms Claire Keegan’s brilliantly polished story into a gorgeous treasure. Adapting the lilting rhythms of Keegan’s Irish-accented English, Kelly utterly embodies local coal man Bill Furlong making his delivery rounds as the Christmas holiday approaches.
A devoted husband and father of five girls, Bill – like all the villagers – navigates his life overshadowed by the Catholic Church. Bill’s mother was a fallen woman, bearing the stigma of being an unwed mother, but Bill manages his adulthood relatively unscathed. And then he discovers a desperate girl locked in a coal shed on convent grounds. Fourteen weeks prior, she gave birth to a son, who was taken by the nuns. Her circumstances will require Bill to make a crucial decision, eschewing indoctrination and embracing individual conscience.
Kelly’s affecting narration remains mostly gentle, with perfectly timed shifts toward sarcasm and outrage – the Mother Superior’s intolerant “You don’t mind bringing the foreigners in” matched with “Hasn’t everyone to be born somewhere … Sure wasn’t Jesus born in Bethlehem.” Kelly’s timing throughout proves superb.
Small Things might be the first audio-adaptation of Keegan’s international bestsellers; more Kelly-starring adaptations would surely be welcome gifts for eager audiences.