The Irish Quarter
A Celebration of the Irish Short Story
March 11 to July 1
Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two. Everything you need to participate is in the resources page, including links to 1000s of short stories, from brand new ones to stories now in the public domain. Guests posts are also welcome. Emerging Irish Women is now a full term event.
April Prize for a Participant- I am happy to announce that a randomly selected participant in ISSW2 will receive a copy of the Frank O'Connor Prize listed work, Somewhere in Minnesota through the kindness of the author, Orfhlaith Foyle. If you are a participant in the event please email me to be in the drawing for this wonderful collection of short stories.
Olivia Rana is the ninth writer to be featured in my own going series of posts on Emerging Irish Women writers. Her story is set in an old fashioned butcher shop, the kind where the butcher knows his customers and takes pride in the product he serves them. There are three central people in this very poignantly wonderful story that captures a deep feeling of family love in a very masterful minimalist fashion.
The story is narrated by the son, who is apprentice to his father in the butcher shop his grandfather started, J. E. Cathcart and Sons Quality Butchers. The father takes great pride in the fact that his sausages have won the Food Service Best in Category award for three years running.
The story is told looking back over several years as the son went from loving working in the butcher shop with his father to feeling almost trapped and somehow oppressed by the nature of the work. He is looking back now because he thinks his father is deathly ill. We get to feel like we are there in the butcher shop. I admit I loved it when someone came into the shop and asked to pay in Euros and the father refused the currency. The son sees the fact that they live on an island as a metaphor for the trapped condition of their lives.
One day the son discovers his father is taking pills for high cholesterol, he has seen his father clutching his arm. One day a regular customer tells them that the doctor has told her that her husband has got to cut down his cholesterol and the father stops chopping, something he almost never does.
This conversation is perfect and shows the great dialogue of the story.
"Cholesterol?" he asks.
"He's off the scale." Mrs McManus tells him. "Strictly no salt or fat".
"That's what the doctor said?"
"There is nothing else for it. They call it the silent killer" she says. "Doctor Lynch told me the country's full of it".
"it is" my father says. "It is".
The father makes a very big decision on the sausages he will submit this year, they will be low in fat and salt and they will be called "Cholesterol Crushers". When he tells his wife about this decision she tells him he could help to save lives. She sends her husband out the door on the day of the contest with a cheering suggestion that if he wins again then the Queen herself will be wanting his sausages.
The story takes a very powerful turn now and I am going to let you have the experience I did, I am not sure the word enjoy is right as it was so overwhelming, and I will tell no more of the plot. Part of the story I really liked was how Rana down played the love between the butcher and his wife which only served to make it all the more real to me. There is a great deal of wisdom in this story. I urge you to read it.
"Cholesterol Crushers" is a great short story and I for sure wil lread more of her work soon.
Here is her official biography.
Olivia was born in Northern Ireland and lives in Belfast with her husband and two young children. Her first novel, Elastic Girl, is set in India, and has been influenced by her Indian family-in-law and her travels in India. She has now embarked on her second novel, which is set in Iceland and is the story of a medium who communicates with Icelandic huldufolk (hidden people).
You can read the story at the link below