by Claire Keegan
from the February 15 & 22, 2010 issue of The New Yorker
It took me nearly the whole week, but I finally finished “Foster.” Luckily, despite the time it took me to read this story, I’m still ahead since this was a double-issue.
Some of you read it much more quickly than I did, and you loved the story. I admired it, and once I finally started reading it didn’t feel the desire to stop until the end. For some reason, though, I didn’t love it — perhaps you spoiled it for me by setting up my expectations!
I did enjoy the story. Set in Ireland, it is told from the perspective of a child whose impoverished parents are expecting yet another child. Because they can’t — or don’t want to — take care of this daughter, they send her to a childless couple who live ”where my mother’s people came from.” She’s filthy when she gets there, she possesses no clothing but what she’s wearing, she’s got lice, and she’s terrified to suddenly be in the care of complete strangers. Of course, things get better because they genuinely care, though there is a bit of mystery about why the couple is childless yet still possess children’s things.
It is a very well written story, subtle and nuanced with a clear focus on the characters. I think I expected more from it, though. One good thing, though, it’s a story that I think rewards rereading. There are a lot of threads that come together toward the end, and it’s nice to see where those threads originated in the story. It is particularly nice to revisit the first few pages where the father and mother and the strangers are first introduced.
Anyway, now that I’ve finished it, please let me know how you felt in more detail.