Another stellar collection from Trevor (A Bit on the Side: Stories, 2004, etc.).
Blarney-free—shorn, too, of much of anything overtly lyrical or political or Catholic Gothic—these aren’t standard-issue Irish tales. Yet Trevor gives us an unassailably real contemporary Ireland, quotidian and atmospheric as fog. In “The Dressmaker’s Child,” Cahal the mechanic lives in a small-town world of Ford Cortinas and WD-40, and yet collides with the uncanny. Spanish pilgrims he’s chauffeuring to visit the Virgin of the Wayside, a statue whose miraculous tears have been debunked, kiss in his backseat, unaware of the thud as he hits a small girl on the dark road. Guilt descends and, his crime undetected, a year later he returns to the Virgin: Her marble face is moist. “Faith,” meanwhile, concerns a difficult woman named Hester, given to “severity and suspicion,” whose brother’s improbable solicitude during her dark dying makes the tale one of the most convincing deathbed stories since Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Illyich.” A dim tramp, Donal Prunty, returns home in “Men of Ireland” after failure in England. He’s wretched and, hoping to share his wretchedness, blackmails a guileless priest by hinting that the old man is a pedophile like so many of his clerical brethren. “Diminished by the sins that so deeply stained his cloth, distrustful of his people,” Father Meade hands over money to the thief then prays for him. In the marvelous title story, old Mallory redeems a promise to his recently dead wife to return to Harry’s Bar in Venice and review the Italian sights the couple had once loved. In the famous bistro, he overhears a couple, stylish as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, bicker and pout and miscommunicate. He mourns his loss and their waste of love.