Foster

Claire Keegan

First Sentence:  Early on a Sunday, after first mass at Clonegal, my father, instead of taking me home, drives deep into Wexford towards the coast where my mother’s people came from.

Published in 2010 this is a revised and expanded version of Claire Keegan’s Davy Byrnes Award winning short story. Whether or not it needed to be expanded, or published in a separate volume as it is here, is debatable but what’s not debatable is the quality of the story, nor the quality of the writing on display here. It is a brief ( too-brief-to-even-call-it-a-novella-type-of-brief ) story of a young girl who is sent to live with foster parents for the summer, and how this summer filled with security and love has a huge effect on the girl’s life. It is incredibly evocative and hauntingly poetic throughout, and really it is a masterclass on how to write a great short story. One to be read in a single sitting.

* * * *

Last Sentence:    “Daddy.”

Last Sentence Explained:    Over the course of the summer it is hinted at that the girl is being abused or mistreated back home. She wets the bed when she first arrives and is constantly told there are no secrets in her new, temporary home. The girl later finds out that her new foster parents had a child of their own who died and that she has been wearing the dead chid’s clothes all this time. This unsettles her and she temporarily reverts to being inward and withdrawn. Clearly the girl is having difficultly finding a sense of belonging anywhere. When the summer ends it is finally time for her to return home but just as her foster parents are driving away she runs after them and jumps up in her foster-father’s arms as her real father walks toward her…

The sentence before the final one reads:

“Daddy,” I keep calling him, keep warning him.

So we are left unsure as to whether or not this means she considers her foster father to be her real father, or whether she is warning her foster father about who is approaching them, or, as is most likely, a little bit of both…

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