The nine stories in Mothers and Sons
examine in depth some of the ways that the bond that is forged--or not--between mothers and their sons is altered, re-formed, or broken forever. In The Master
, his fictionalized life of Henry James, Toíbín made the reader see and understand the writer more fully than ever before. Similarly, these new stories look at relationships between fully formed adults and, with a few deft strokes, make clear what their mutual history has brought them to. In most cases, they must deal with loss, while trying to grasp the complexities of that sometimes precarious balance between a mother and her son.
In the first story, "The Use of Reason," a lifelong burglar is nearly brought down by his mother, who talks too much when she drinks in her local pub. In "A Song," Noel, on the town with a group of his musician friends, ends up in the same bar as his estranged mother, who is asked to sing. She sings an Irish ballad about love and treachery and he is convinced that she is singing directly to him. In "A Priest in the Family," Molly's son Frank is accused of abuse, but no one has the courage to tell her until it is almost time for the trial. Her reaction is not entirely predictable. "Three Friends" takes place after a young man attends his mother's funeral. He joins his friends for a night of carousing and drugs ending with a late-night swim, where he is emboldened to make an overt sexual pass at one of his buddies, with interesting results. The final story, "A Long Winter," is set in Spain in a remote village. Miquel's mother drinks. Everyone knows it but Miquel. His father pours out her supply of booze and she leaves the house. So far it's a simple story. It doesn't stay that way. Each of these stories has its own gravitas, its own sadness, and that laser-beam of insight that is Toíbín's trademark. --Valerie Ryan
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Though not a grand storyteller or a consummate imitator of various voices and cadences, Gerard Doyle's introspective and masterful reading of most of Tóibín's short stories is nearly perfect. Doyle's assured voice fits Tóibín's characters, who think more than they act, fail to communicate with those closest to them and prefer their own company to that of others. There is little dialogue since people feel they can confide in no one, even their own mother or son. Doyle phrases the stories carefully in order to highlight the rich nuances and stark lighting and scenery. The stories end abruptly, with the characters on the verge of, rather than at the end of, some transformative experience. Therefore, the extra long pauses between stories are welcome. Unfortunately, Doyle loses some of his power in the last story, "A Long Winter," which is set in Spain, but in which, oddly, Doyle affects a Slavic accent. Nevertheless, Tóibín's consummate writing skills are not to be missed by lovers of serious literature. Simultaneous release with Scribner hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 16).
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