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Mothers and Sons


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About the Author

Colm Toibin was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of several novels, including Brooklyn, the 2009 Costa Novel of the Year, The Master, which was shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize and winner of the LA Times Book Prize and the IMPAC Book Award, and The Blackwater Lightship, which was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize and the 2001 IMPAC Award. His non-fiction includes Bad Blood, Homage to Barcelona, The Sign of the Cross and Love in a Dark Time. He is also the author of two short-story collections, Mothers and Sons, which was awarded the inaugural Edge Hill Prize, and The Empty Family, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He lives in Dublin.


Nine stories from the author of The Master, The Blackwater Lightship and three other novels explore what happens when mothers and sons confront one another as adults. The sons include a middle-aged petty criminal, a young alienated pub musician and a regular guy whose drug-fueled mourning takes him into new sexual territory. The mothers include a widow who married above her class, a woman whose son's depression hangs over her and her husband's lives and a woman whose son is a priest being charged with abuse. In "The Name of the Game," the widowed Nancy Sheridan finds herself saddled with three children and a debt-ridden supermarket. In "Famous Blue Raincoat," former-folk-rock sensation-turned-smalltime-photographer Lisa is distressed by her son Luke's interest in her band, but refuses to tread on his curiousity, which forces her to reconfront the band's painful end. Longing, frustrated expectations and an offhandedly gorgeous Ireland run steadily throughout except in the concluding, near-novella-length "A Long Winter," set in a Spanish village, and featuring Miguel, his younger brother, Jordi, and their mother, whose drinking may not be the only secret Miguel discovers during preparations for Jordi's departure for his military service. Wistful, touching and complex, these stories form a panoramic portrait of loss. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

The mothers and sons in Toibin's superlative first collection resist the changes wrought by transformative events. With precise and poignant detail, Toibin, twice short-listed for the Booker Prize (for The Blackwater Lightship and The Master), reveals how they try to normalize their respective situations. In "A Priest in the Family," a mother, after learning of a heinous crime her son committed, forces herself to drink scalding tea to prove to herself that she could face anything. After a renowned singer performs a song for an audience that includes her estranged son ("A Song"), he immediately leaves, motivated by a desire to prove to himself the insignificance of the act. In "A Long Winter," Toibin's best and longest effort in the collection, a depressed mother unexpectedly walks off from her home and gets caught in a blizzard that marks the beginning of a tempestuous winter. The story traces her husband's and son's thoughts and habits while they wait for the spring thaw. Even though they and the reader know the mother's fate early, Toibin is able to craft a painfully unequivocal denouement. Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/06.]-David Doerrer, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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