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Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Small Things Like These

by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These is award-winning author Claire Keegan’s landmark new novel, a tale of one man’s courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 128
  • Publication Date November 30, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5874-1
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.25"
  • US List Price $20.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date November 30, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5875-8
  • US List Price $20.00

Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize

“A hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time.”—Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.

Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.

Tags Literary

Praise for Small Things Like These:

Longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize
Winner of the Orwell Prize
An NPR “Books We Love” of 2021 selection
A Chicago Public Library “Best of the Best” of 2021 selection
People Magazine’s “Book of the Week”
Publishers Weekly “Holiday Gift Guide 2021” Selection

“At the opening of Small Things Like These, one immediately senses that Keegan is breathing something vital into the season’s most cherished tales, until, as gently as snow falling, her little book accrues the unmistakable aura of a classic… From the elements of this simple existence in an inconsequential town, Keegan has carved out a profoundly moving and universal story… Small Things Like These reminds us that the real miracle in any season is courage. Get two copies: one to keep, one to give.”—Washington Post

“For all her earlier accolades, Small Things Like These, Keegan’s first novel, enters the world this month with the shocking force of a debut… Over what would amount to a couple of chapters in another novel, Keegan manages to place her characters and her readers at the center of an essential human dilemma: Will we turn a blind eye to evil in our midst, or will we take some action against it, even if it consists of just one small thing? As Keegan’s concise, capacious new book demonstrates, little acts can lead to real change.”—Los Angeles Times

“Keegan’s precisely considered details about character, setting, memory, and dramatic moment create a story you will want to read again and again. Her deceptively simple language is pitch-perfect.”—Boston Globe

“This exquisite miniature of a novel somehow defies the gravitational pull of its grim subject to hover in a quotidian, luminous present. Details materialize with preternatural clarity. The milky light of a winter afternoon, mist on a river, a woman opening an oven door, a child taking her father’s hand: We see these things and feel their lingering presence as we are drawn into the life of an unassuming man in an unremarkable place.”—Wall Street Journal

“Claire Keegan… now gives us her best work yet. Small Things Like These is a short, wrenching, thoroughly brilliant novel mapping the path of one man’s conscience, its torment and vacillation between two courses of action. Either one bears a price… Spare and potent, this is a remarkable story.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A sparse, breathtaking perfect gem of a novel.”—People 

Small Things Like These is a gem of a slim novel about a family man faced with a moral decision… a deeply moving tale.Associated Press 

“Keegan captured and affected my whole attention. She draws a web of complicity around the convent’s activities that is chillingly mundane and brutally true. These kinds of places existed not just because of the cruelty of the people who ran them, but also because of the fear and selfishness of those who were willing to ignore them. Stunning. Just stunning.”Catherine Whelan, NPR  

“The novel isn’t just an eloquent attack on [Magdalene] laundries, however. It is also a touching Christmas tale, genuinely reminiscent of the festive stories of O Henry and Charles Dickens; a novel that has been seeped in sherry and served by the fireside… As soon as you pick the novel up, it’s all over. The monumental power of Claire Keegan is that she can create these cuckoo-clock narratives where every single word seems to be a necessary contribution to the overall mechanism of the novel. She is all killer, no filler… How lucky we are to have Keegan, a genuine once-in-a-generation writer whose dedication to her craft is as meticulous as it is masterly.”—The Times (UK)

“Keegan distills the years of suffering and torture that went on across the country into a reed-slim moral tale of quiet but monumental devastation… Although concretely realist, and grounded in dark social history, everything about this remarkable novella feels in some way miraculous; from the parable-like impression of the story itself, which culminates in an act of bravery and true Christian humanity, to the modest, measured beauty of Keegan’s prose… The clarity and truth of Keegan’s vision never falters. The result is a truly exquisite, tenderly hopeful Christmas tale in which compassion and altruism triumph over apathy and inertia.”—The Telegraph (UK)

“A feat of compression, concerned with the nature of goodness and the texture of everyday life. [A] snowglobe of a story that fits a whole bustling, striving, yearning world into 114 finely wrought pages.”—Sunday Times (UK) 

“Keegan is the goddess of small things. Her ability to conjure whole worlds from a few words; an entire relationship from a handful of exchanges, is little short of miraculous. Small Things Like These assures us we are all capable of doing the right thing, and that goodness, like misery, can be handed on from man to man. It is a literary state of grace.”—Herald (UK) 

A masterclass in light-touch, heart-stopping writing… Small Things Like These is gripping and subtly emotionally charged from start to finish. Breathtaking.”—Sunday Independent (Ireland)

“With Small Things Like These, Keegan powerfully conjures up a prison, as observed from the perspective of one on the outside looking in. A powerful, haunting drama, this novella is essential reading in 2021.”—Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

“This distinctly unfestive Christmas tale confirms Keegan’s reputation as an exquisite literary miniaturist who makes a little go a long way.”—Daily Mail (UK)

“This isn’t a sentimental book. It’s a quiet one, in the wake of John McGahern or Colm Tóibín, populated by the awareness that ‘if you want to get on in life, there’s some things you have to ignore, so you can keep on’. Keegan keeps the mood tight with a nice balance of internal reflection and external action, never going too far in either direction… Furlong [is] one of the subtlest but most memorable of recent characters in fiction.”—The Critic

“An Irishman uncovers abuse at a Magdalen laundry in this compact and gripping novel… Keegan, a prizewinning Irish short story writer, says a great deal in very few words to extraordinary effect in this short novel. Despite the brevity of the text, Furlong’s emotional state is fully rendered and deeply affecting. Keegan also carefully crafts a web of complicity around the convent’s activities that is believably mundane and all the more chilling for it… A stunning feat of storytelling and moral clarity.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The latest from multi-award-winning Irish novelist Keegan (Antarctica) indicts the social culture that enabled Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries and brilliantly articulates a decent person’s struggle of conscience… Keegan’s beautiful prose is quiet and precise, jewel-like in its clarity. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Keegan’s psychologically astute characterizations subtly convey the dual pressures of culpability and fear felt by the faithful… A trenchant and plangent work asking at what cost does one remain silent.”—Booklist

“This novel, which has all the trappings of a Claire Keegan story (small-town Ireland, a dark secret, a man with a burden to bear) is sure to be absolutely beloved by all who read it.”—Literary Hub

“Irish story writer Keegan’s gorgeously textured second novella (after Foster) centers on a family man who wants to do the right thing… Keegan beautifully conveys Bill’s interior life as he returns to the house where he was raised… It all leads to a bittersweet culmination, a sort of anti–Christmas Carol, but to Bill it’s simply sweet. Readers will be touched.”—Publishers Weekly

“There are many things I love about Claire Keegan’s writing. Her way with place and atmosphere, her perfectly structured stories, the fullness and generosity of the openings that narrow as time moves on and the options available to her characters seem to dwindle, bringing them (and us) to ends that are at once surprising and fated… All Keegan’s writing, including her long-awaited new novel, Small Things Like These, has this same immersive, deeply considered quality.”—Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

“A story that reached so deep I felt the characters moving around inside me. This unforgettable novel is a literary masterpiece and Claire Keegan is one of the world’s greatest living writers.” —Simon van Booy

“Small Things Like These is a hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time. Claire Keegan’s sentences make my heart pound and my knees buckle and I will always read everything she writes.” —Lily King

“In Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan creates scenes with astonishing clarity and lucidity. This is the story of what happened in Ireland, told with sympathy and emotional accuracy. From winter skies to the tiniest tick of speech to the baking of a Christmas cake, Claire Keegan makes her moments real—and then she makes them matter.” —Colm Tóibín, author of The Magician

Small Things Like These is not just about Ireland, it’s about the world, and it asks profound questions about complicity, about the hope and difficulty of change, and the complex nature of restitution… A single one of Keegan’s grounded, powerful sentences can contain volumes of social history. Every word is the right word in the right place, and the effect is resonant and deeply moving.” —Hilary Mantel, author of The Mirror and the Light

“A book that makes you excited to discover everything its author has ever written… Absolutely beautiful.” —Douglas Stuart, author of Shuggie Bain

“Marvellous — exact and icy and loving all at once.”—Sarah Moss, author of Ghost Wall

“A true gift of a book… Reading it brings a sublime Chekhovian shock.”—Andrew O’Hagan, author of Be Near Me

I’m now reading it for the third time. This little book moved me so much. And I have been carrying it everywhere with me, underlying favorite passages (too many!). This book is a prayer, an elixir of courage, a school of life, a healing balm for our sorrows, a song to human kindness, and a gift of hope.”—Aggie Zivaljevic, Kepler’s Books (Menlo Park, CA)

Praise for Walk the Blue Fields:

“The best stories here are so textured and moving, so universal but utterly distinctive, that it’s easy to imagine readers savoring them many years from now. And to imagine critics, far in the future, deploying lofty new terms to explain what it is that makes Keegan’s fiction work.”—Maud Newton, New York Times Book Review

“These stories are pure magic. They add, using grace, intelligence and an extraordinary ear for rhythm, to the distinguished tradition of the Irish short story. They deal with Ireland now, but have a sort of timeless edge to them, making Claire Keegan both an original and a canonical presence in Irish fiction.”—Colm Tóibín

“Keegan is that rarest of writers—someone I will always want to read.”—Richard Ford, Irish Times, “Best Books of 2007”

“Perfect short stories . . . flawless structure . . . What makes this collection a particular joy is the run and pleasure of the language.”—Anne Enright, Guardian

“A young Irish prodigy . . . Writing in a striking, Celtic-slanted prose, Keegan exposes the hearts, hopes and dreams of those in the Irish countryside. . . . The collection unfolds powerfully, with stories that chronicle an isolated young woman’s discovery of seemingly magical powers, incest in a desperate Irish farm family and the disintegration of marriages. . . . astonishing.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered

“[Keegan’s] . . . collections have drawn comparisons to William Trevor and Anton Chekhov . . . [She] crafts stories out of small details and insight . . . like poetry. . . . Claire Keegan is the real deal.”—Keith Donohue, “You Must Read This” NPR.com

“[A] stunning second collection . . . Keegan’s stories are the literary counterparts to Picasso’s Blue Period paintings. . . . Keegan’s first collection, Antarctica, led to comparisons with Raymond Carver, but Annie Proulx, with her distilled, poetic prose and attunement to remote landscapes, is a closer match.”—Heller McAlpin, San Francisco Chronicle

“These short fictions by the Irish author Claire Keegan haven’t a style so much as a microclimate, a chill mist blowing in on a hard wind off the sea. . . . The author’s own storytelling powers have darkened and matured since her first collection, as she takes confident command of her craft.”—Amanda Heller, The Boston Globe

“Hope lurks somewhere in almost all [Keegan’s] stories. . . . You start out on the paths of these simple, rural lives, and not long into each, some bit of rage or unforgivable transgression bubbles up . . . Then the truly amazing happens: Life goes on, limps along, heads for some new chance at beauty.”—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Walk the Blue Fields may be among the best books you will read this year. . . . Keegan’s writing offers stark, intelligent flourishes and a look into the heart of rural Ireland, gurgling with desolate undercurrents.”—Vikram Johri, St. Petersburg Times

“Keegan’s debut collection, Antarctica, garnered comparisons with fellow Irish author William Trevor. Her follow-up has confirmed that she belongs in that fine story-telling tradition that harks back to Anton Chekhov. Sparse, bleak and unsentimental, her stories suggest that the only thing men and women truly share is the loneliness that confines them.”—Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times

“A note-perfect short story is something a very few people can produce. The Irish writer Claire Keegan does it in her second collection of stories. . . . Immaculate structure, a lovely, easy flow of language, and a certain stony-eyed realism about human experience; she is very much part of an Irish tradition, but a unique craftswoman for all that.”—Hilary Mantel, New Statesman

“Exquisite stories, so intricately wrought, so strange and beguiling as to entirely bewitch.”—The Guardian

“Like Chekhov, Keegan has the ability to sum up a life, or a significant chunk of one, in apparently trivial, quotidian events. . . . in a voice that is lyrical, thoughtful, but with a thick, dark strain of melancholy running through it.”—Sunday Independent (5 stars)

“Powerful . . . The two foremost contemporary masters of the [short story] form, Alistair MacLeod and John McGahern, know that tradition can live even in the lament for its passing . . . Claire Keegan is their true successor, a writer already touched by greatness.”—Declan Kiberd, The Irish Times