Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011
: A young woman returning to the small island of her childhood summers; a nephew caring for his dying aunt; two men cautiously discovering love amid a community shrouded in tradition--these are the delicately rendered characters inhabiting Colm Toibin's remarkable collection of short stories, The Empty Family
. Toibin artfully constructs the quiet moments in the lives of individuals, examining the unexpected ways in which people become strangers to one another as families fragment, separate, and regenerate in new forms. With a tone that moves seamlessly between fervor and melancholy, Toibin examines the imperfect relationships of parents, children, lovers, and friends, and--with a befitting nod toward Henry James--the meaning of love in its many forms. In The Empty Family
, Toibin proves once again that his mastery of language is matched only by his acute understanding of human longing. --Lynette Mong
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Tóibín returns to his native shores from Brooklyn for the bulk of these nine pristine stories, all--save one--contemporary tales of lives haunted by loss, whether it's the legacy of a sexually abusive priest in an already complicated love triangle in "The Pearl Fishers," the long-absent gay son who returns to Dublin from New York to attend to his mother's last moments in "One Minus One," or the aching void that greets an academic's return to a family home on the Irish coast in the wistful title story. Affairs, airports, and deathbeds populate a mature prose that's as tender with descriptions of sexual, often gay, love as it is with the heart's more inexpressible reaches, never more so than in the complex "The Street," where two Pakistanis find love in the repressive backdrop of blue-collar Barcelona only to be met with violence and a curious captivity. These stories go a long way toward establishing Tóibín as heir to William Trevor, with reverberations that show how life encompasses more than the living. (Jan.)
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