A valuable collection of 23 expertly understated stories by the late Irish writer (1904–92).
McLaverty’s primary territory was rural Ireland (around Belfast), and his crisp portrayals of aging farmers and pensioners lamenting lost youth and opportunity are matched by sensitive renderings of children who only half-understand their elders’ travail. His mastery of indigenous detail is brilliantly displayed in a moving account of a father and son’s arduous journey to church services (“Evening in Winter”), a devastating tale of “relocated” poor families (“Uprooted”), and the elegiac “After Forty Years” (often, justly, compared with Joyce’s “The Dead’). Even better are the story of a family mourning a son who “died for Ireland” (“Pigeons”); an explication of how poverty inevitably breeds lawlessness (“The Game Cock”); and a wry reminiscence of a schoolteacher sustained by his classroom science “demonstrations” (“The Poteen Maker”). A volume that (graced by Barbara Childs’s beautiful woodcut illustrations) pays overdue homage to a miniaturist who was one of the masters.