Keegan’s beautiful new novella, Foster, is no less likely to move you than any heaping 400-page tome you’ll read this year ... Keegan’s novella is a master class in child narration. The voice resists the default precociousness, and walks the perfect balance between naïveté and acute emotional intelligence ... Keegan averts expectations in the couple’s portrayal, which brings Foster some welcome levity ... Like a great, long Ishiguro novel, Keegan makes us complicit in what her characters want, setting us up for utter heartbreak when they don’t get it
[A] writer of sparse, assured sentences that burrow into something ineffable about what it is to be alive and then hold it up with care for our examination and pleasure ... It is even tighter — and better for that, I would argue — than the equally slim Small Things Like These ... The structure of the story is crystalline, unfussed: We begin at the start of something; we move almost completely linearly through the present tense; we finish when what started on the first page comes to an end. There is a clear and jarring rupture in the second half...followed by a devastatingly earnest and heartbreaking denouement ... This is not to say any of Foster is predictable — which in itself is remarkable ... Foster is exactly as sad as you imagine it would be, but more stunningly alive than you have any right to expect. Its language settles in your belly and then your bones only seconds after it has passed your eyes ... Foster is a small story, but it is not minimalist ... Keegan’s world is lush and full, the details delicately made, ever more rewarding and engaging with every read ... Keegan takes care to etch out for us this world’s particularity, to let us see,feel and hear it, to enlist us in helping bring it to life. While the scale of her story is modest...the scope of what Keegan can hold inside of it...is as big, brash and ambitious as a story might be.
In her 50s, [Keegan] stands out among her contemporary compatriots who may be better known, such as Roddy Doyle or Maggie O’Farrell or Sally Rooney or Mary Costello. For me, her work seems more universal and her vision both wider and deeper ... The need to tell something longer than can be encapsulated in a short story has led Keegan to slow down. You sense that a great deal of thinking has been done in preparation for the writing, with the result that each sentence matters, and each, sometimes very ordinary, action has real consequences. Thus, although they are small books, they hold a multitude of pleasures I did not expect ... a superb story about a child blossoming and discovering that life, as bleak as it may sometimes seem, is also about possibilities ... This is an exquisite story told in exquisite prose. In it, we sense a world troubled by the most essential kind of trouble. Yet, because of her great gifts, Claire Keegan has given us a tale that affirms life and gives us hope. And, even more important, she has created an unforgettable character whose courage can give us courage. This is a story that makes it clear that no act of bravery is ever futile and, by extension, we must each do our part, however small. Her moral message is timely, and our gratitude should be boundless.