Each of the nine stories in this beautifully written, intensely intimate collection centers on a transformative moment that alters the delicate balance of power between mother and son, or changes the way they perceive one another. With exquisite grace and eloquence, Toibin writes of men and women bound by convention, by unspoken emotions, by the stronghold of the past. Many are trapped in lives they would not choose again, if they ever chose at all.
A man buries his mother and converts his grief to desire in one night. A famous singer captivates an audience, yet cannot beguile her own estranged son. And in "A Long Winter," Colm Toibin's finest piece of cction to date, a young man searches for his mother in the snow-covered mountains where she has sought escape from the husband who controls and confines her.
Winner of numerous awards for his fifth novel, The Master -- including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- Toibin brings to this stunning first collection an acute understanding of human frailty and longing. These are haunting, profoundly moving stories by a writer who is himself a master.
Nine stories from the author of The Master, The Blackwater Lightship and three other novels explore what happens when mothers and sons confront one another as adults. The sons include a middle-aged petty criminal, a young alienated pub musician and a regular guy whose drug-fueled mourning takes him into new sexual territory. The mothers include a widow who married above her class, a woman whose son's depression hangs over her and her husband's lives and a woman whose son is a priest being charged with abuse. In "The Name of the Game," the widowed Nancy Sheridan finds herself saddled with three children and a debt-ridden supermarket. In "Famous Blue Raincoat," former-folk-rock sensation-turned-smalltime-photographer Lisa is distressed by her son Luke's interest in her band, but refuses to tread on his curiousity, which forces her to reconfront the band's painful end. Longing, frustrated expectations and an offhandedly gorgeous Ireland run steadily throughout--except in the concluding, near-novella-length "A Long Winter," set in a Spanish village, and featuring Miguel, his younger brother, Jordi, and their mother, whose drinking may not be the only secret Miguel discovers during preparations for Jordi's departure for his military service. Wistful, touching and complex, these stories form a panoramic portrait of loss. (Jan.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Mothers and Sons by Colm Toibin
Noel was the driver that weekend in Clare, the only musician among his friends who did not drink. They were going to need a driver; the town was, they believed, too full of eager students and eager tourists; the pubs were impossible. For two or three nights they would aim for empty country pubs or private houses. Noel played the tin whistle with more skill than flair, better always accompanying a large group than playing alone. His singing voice, however, was special, even though it had nothing of the strength and individuality of his mother's voice, known to all of them from one recording made in the early seventies. He could do perfect harmony with anybody, moving a fraction above or below, roaming freely around the other voice, no matter what sort of voice it was. He did not have an actual singing voice, he used to joke, he had an ear, and in that small world it was agreed that his ear was flawless.
On the Sunday night the town had grown unbearable. Most visitors were, his friend George said, the sort of people who would blissfully spill pints over your uilleann pipes. And even some of the better-known country pubs were too full of outsiders for comfort. Word had spread, for example, of the afternoon session at Kielty's in Millish, and now that the evening was coming in, it was his job to rescue two of his friends and take them from there to a private house on the other side of Ennis where they would have peace to play.
As soon as he entered the pub, he saw in the recess by the window one of them playing the melodion, the other the fiddle, both acknowledging him with the tiniest flick of the eyes and a sharp knitting of the brow. A crowd had gathered around them, two other fiddlers and a young woman playing the flute. The table in front of them was laden down with full and half-full pint glasses.
Noel stood back and looked around him before going up to the bar to get a soda water and lime; the music had brightened the atmosphere of the pub so that even the visitors, including those who knew nothing about the music, had a strange glow of contentment and ease.
He saw one of his other friends at the bar waiting for a drink and nodded calmly to him before moving toward him to tell him that they would soon be moving on. His friend agreed to come with them.
"Don't tell anyone where we're going," Noel said.
As soon as they could decently leave, he thought, and it might be an hour or more, he would drive them across the countryside, as though in flight from danger.
His friend, once he had been served, edged nearer to him, a full pint of lager in his hand.