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FOSTER by Claire Keegan Kirkus Star


by Claire Keegan

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-8021-6014-0
Publisher: Grove

A modern Irish classic, first published in 2010, finally makes its way to America.

At the beginning of this pristine novella, a young, unnamed girl is sent to stay with childless relatives at their farm in County Wexford, Ireland, for the summer. Her parents have temporarily disposed of her due to her mother’s latest pregnancy and the strain of feeding their large family. Despite having been unceremoniously abandoned with relatives she barely knows, Keegan’s narrator quickly warms to Mr. and Mrs. Kinsella and blossoms under their care. While her father views her as little more than a burden and a potential tool—“She’ll ate,” he tells the Kinsellas, “but ye can work her”—and her mother is eager to get rid of her, her foster parents not only bathe, clothe, and feed her, but also provide her with enough care and attention to expand her conception of what family and love can be. Sadly, though, her golden summer cannot last forever. Like all of Keegan’s work, including last year’s Booker Prize–longlisted Small Things Like These, this novella is both concise and gut-wrenching. Her superficially simple prose persuasively conveys a child’s sometimes-innocent but always careful and insightful observations of the world. Keegan suggests that children see and understand more than adults might like to think without turning her narrator into a miniature grown-up. “Walking back along the path and through the fields, holding her hand, I feel I have her balanced,” the narrator reflects, thinking of Mrs. Kinsella. “I try to remember another time when I felt like this and am sad because I can’t remember a time, and happy, too, because I cannot.” The novella crescendos in a final scene that will inspire many to call their fathers—once they’ve finished weeping.

A heartbreaking but deeply humane story about parents and children.