Colm Tóibín (Ireland, 1955) is one of my favorite fiction writers and a master interpreter of literature. I first read his excellant novel based on the London years of Henry James, The Master, then Brooklyn about an Irish woman who moves to the New York City area, then the unique Testament of Mary and lastly his most recent book Nora Webster. I also read his monograph, Lady Gregory's Toothbrush as well as several of his short stories. I have profited from his essays on Henry James.
This year's Irish Short Story Month is a lower key event than in the past but there are still stories yet unread in his anthology, Mothers and Sons so I decided to include his "A Journey" in this year's Irish Short Story Month.
The story begins shortly after a married couple has had, after twenty years of marriage, their first child, David. They never expected a child after twenty years but he did not upset their comfortable routine as much as they feared. Compressing a bit, we flash twenty years forward. The father Sheamus is very sick, probably going to die soon. The mother has gone to pick their son up from a mental hospital where he was treated for problems we never quite understand. He rides in the back seat of the car and tells his mother he does not want any questions. She is bringing him home to live. She wonders if she can summon up the unselfishness to take care of them both.
This is a very moving story anyone who ever had a wonderful self-sacrificing mother will cherish. It depicts how women are sometimes pushed into the role of caregiver.