cover image So Late in the Day

So Late in the Day

Claire Keegan. Grove, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6085-0

Keegan (Foster) imbues the three stories in her exquisite collection with the keen awareness of human fallibility characteristic of her previous work. The title story is set on a momentous day in the life of Cathal, whom the reader meets while he shuffles through dull office work and contemplates his own foibles. By the time he’s home alone with his cat and a microwave dinner, he’s revealed himself to be a lonely and hateful man who, because of his lack of generosity, has just lost something irretrievable. In “The Long and Painful Death,” set at a remote seaside writer’s retreat, a woman cleverly repurposes a middle-aged German professor’s crusty misogyny for her own creative ends. “Antarctica” is the terrifying story of a happily married woman’s ill-fated quest for a moment of sexual fulfillment with another man during the Christmas holidays. Each of Keegan’s male characters is culpable in whatever trouble they get themselves into. Her women have agency, but are shackled by the poisonous attitudes of the men they encounter. Written over a span of 20 years, these pristine stories demonstrate the author’s genius for economy. Keegan says in a paragraph what other writers take entire novels to reveal. (Nov.)