In Claire Keegan’s Foster a girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in County Wicklow, rural Ireland, around the time of the IRA hunger strikes.
In her new home she finds kindness and warmth, something she’s not known in her own home. Under the care of her foster parents, the Kinsellas, she thrives, learning to read and run.
There is a constant warning that secrets are not allowed in the Kinsella home, ‘where there’s a secret… there’s shame, and shame is something we can do without’. The reader knows that inevitably there is a secret to be uncovered.
The child does learn the secret and returns home, but is changed in many ways. Her siblings see her as a foreigner, with different clothes and appearance to the sister that went away.
The writing in Foster is wonderful. There are some beautiful descriptions that verge on the poetic. The story is well crafted and well written, with a lingering sadness that makes it all the more powerful.
Claire Keegan is a specialist in the short story form. Her collections have won various prizes, establishing her as a talented writer of contemporary fiction. This is the first story I’ve read by Keegan, and I loved it. I’ve already ordered her other collections.
I definitely recommend Foster.