In expressing his admiration for [Claire Keegan’s] Foster, Richard Ford praised it as “a highwire act of uncommon narrative virtuosity.” It is exactly that. Poised delicately between the dual perils of wordlessness and verbose excess, the novella treads lightly along a tightrope towards disclosure of its central secret, as an understanding — an almost instinctual sympathy — develops between this man who declines to speak at length and the girl who narrates their story with an abundance of words. The result is a delicately articulated account of the aftermath of an unspeakable trauma in a dialect confined by inexperience and incomprehension. The balancing act, as Keegan performs it, is deft and assured without being audacious, a quiet attempt to give voice to painfully hidden memories without disturbing the silence that has settled upon them, and most impressive of all is that it culminates in the utterance of a single word — the last, perfect word of the book — which distils, into only two syllables, more meaning than could be conveyed as powerfully in a page-long soliloquy.
My review of Claire Keegan’s Foster is online at Killings, the Kill Your Darlings blog.