I read Anne Enright’s The Gathering (Man Booker Prize) slowly. I had to. If I had not, the pain would have been insurmountable. Even so, the pain was there, a dull throb.
If you have ever grieved (which we nearly all have or will at some point in our lives), then this book will speak to you. Directly, honestly. If you have ever grieved a family member, one you remembered as a child, then this book will speak to you. If your family has secrets, then this book will speak to you. If you have loved and lost, then this book will speak to you.
Basically, I can’t imagine an adult who would read this book and not find some connection within. Can’t imagine who would not experience a moment of “ah ha” as she read.
On the surface, it’s a book about grief (a sister for her brother), but beneath there is a lifetime of grieving. Veronica has witnessed much and even that which she has not witnessed, she feels she knows. As she moves through the layers of her life, she shows us how her family fell apart, came back together, fell apart, came back together. For what else is there in a family but the pushing away and the pulling back close?
And in Veronica’s large family, we are able to see our own:
There is always a drunk. There is always someone who has been interfered with, as a child. There is always a colossal success, with several houses in various countries to which no one is ever invited. There is a mysterious sister. These are just trends, of course, and, like trends they shift. Because our families contain everything and, late at night, everything makes sense. We pity our mothers, what they had to put up with in bed or in the kitchen, and we hate them or we worship them, but we always cry for them – at least I do. The imponderable pain of my mother, against which I have hardened my heart. Just one glass over the odds and I will thump the table, like the rest of them, and howl for her too.
Maybe I’m wrong and this book will make no sense to you. Even so, the writing is a glory to behold as is the story it uncovers.