Donovan (Sunless, 2007, etc.) provides quiet stories of place and displacement, of relationships and disruption.
“Morning Swimmers,” the first story in the collection, examines how a man named Jim unintentionally eavesdrops on a conversation between two of his friends and unwittingly finds out more than he wants to know—about their opinion of him, about their speculations on his sexuality and about his marriage. Out of anger Jim pays them back in kind, and the result is a friendship gone terribly awry. The second story has much the same conceit, but this time the dramatic situation features a husband and wife. On the road to Galway, Peter asks his wife Brenda, “If I died tomorrow, how long would you wait until you did it with someone else?” Peter’s attempt to elicit a sense of deep connection with Brenda leads to her admission that she’s already thought of being unfaithful when he’s been away on business trips. Once again brutal honesty leads to the re-evaluation and diminishment of a relationship. In “Another Life,” Mary Connolly visits a solicitor to receive legal documents attendant on the sudden death by heart attack of her husband, Paul, whom she has always seen as a “good man” throughout their 30 years of childless marriage. Among other things, she’s handed a key to a small house in the village of Oranmore, five hours from where she lives in Listowel, and discovers that for many years her husband has had a secret life, a life that includes having fathered a child. One of the finest stories in the collection, “Archeologists,” features Robert and Emma as the two professionals of the title. They have slowed production on a construction project because they’ve discovered some ancient artifacts. The act of digging up the historical past eventually becomes a metaphor for the wreckage of their own personal past.
Gemlike stories that focus on contemporary issues in Ireland.