From the internationally celebrated author of Brooklyn and The Master, and winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, comes a stunning new book of fiction.
In the captivating stories that make up The Empty Family, Colm Tibn delineates with a tender and unique sensibility, lives of unspoken or unconscious longing, of individuals often willingly cast adrift from their history. From the young Pakistani immigrant who seeks some kind of permanence in a strange town, to the Irish woman reluctantly returning to Dublin and discovering a city that refuses to acknowledge her long absence, each of Tibn's stories manage to contain whole worlds: stories of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained.
Like Tibn's celebrated novels, and his previous short story collection, Mothers and Sons, reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, The Empty Family will further confirm Tibn's status as "his generation's most gifted writer of love's complicated, contradictory power." (Los Angeles Times)
If you’ve never heard of Colm Toibin, it’s time to see what you’ve been missing out on. After two decades of internationally acclaimed journalism, novels, and nonfiction studies, Toibin’s second short story collection, The Empty Family, draws on many of his best themes and influences for a satisfying representation of the author’s sensibilities. Those familiar with his work or who have listened to Toibin’s audiobooks before will also find a delightful surprise. Among a host of other narrators, this time two of the stories are narrated by Colm Toibin himself.
The pieces vary widely in length, but each stays close to the fundamental truth of peoples’ inability to adequately communicate with one another, even, or perhaps especially, with their closest friends and family. Ireland is the primary setting, as Toibin has spent most of his life there, but there are a few excellently colorful forays into places like Barcelona, where Toibin lived for much of the late 1970s. A particularly poignant story is narrated by Broadway touring legend Alma Cuervo, who tells of a young Communist activist returning home after the fall of the Franco regime to find her disapproving family deeply in debt and pressuring her to sell her grandmother’s beloved beach house to touristy condo developers.
But the two short works narrated by Toibin himself certainly steal the show. Among several Irish narrators, the unique texture of Toibin’s throaty molasses will send shivers down your spine. Listening to the author read his own work adds a poetry and a sadness to the missed connections that is a brilliant revelation. His rusty lisp completely conveys the profound searching and longing that these characters are going through. Some of the characters face their demons in Catholic school, some in the hospital, and some in the bars they used to frequent. Some reconnect happily, some are left with loose ends, and some are determined to just keep running from the unfortunate past. Any way you slice it, this is a very good selection of Colm Toibin’s work, and the chance to hear him interpret characters in his own voice is pricelessly enlightening. Megan Volpert
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Love, Loss, and Longing
The Empty Family