The Gathering

by Susana Fletcher

If you ever wanted to open a portal into someone's slightly sad, slightly scattered mind and live through grief and discovery, here's your chance. Anne Enright's novel "The Gathering" is at times oppressive, at other times uplifting, but at all times it is an open invitation to move in and help the protagonist Veronica work through memories, histories, and scars in search for the truth.

Veronica is a mother, a wife, and a member of the Hegarty clan, whose history and unity are tantamount to its dysfunction. Her closest brother and childhood friend, Liam, is dead, and with his passing she becomes the sole surviving keeper of an old family secret. This causes Veronica to slip into the recesses of her mind, processing memories and wounds insufficiently healed. "But though it hurt, I found that I was able to draw on more ancient hurts than that -- and that is how I survived. This is how we all survive. We default to the oldest scar."

Enveloped by her lamentable excuse for a mother, her loveless marriage, and her intense grief, Veronica sits at a crossroads for change and self-realization. "Sitting on a stool in a Shelbourne bar," she thinks, "I wondered what might happen if I just carried on as usual, told no one, changed nothing, and decided not to be married after all." She employs sensual fantasy and therapeutic fiction in this beautiful and tragic story of sorrow and coming to terms with the hardest of truths. "We are entirely free range. We are human beings in the raw. Some survive better than others, that is all."

A story brilliantly woven through three generations, Enright captures the rawest form of thought and the mind's ability to cope with trauma. Uncomfortable realizations, unflinching truths, and the undeniable consequences that grow from seeds of defilement and shame, "The Gathering" is a fearless look at the inside, probing the inner wounds that sometimes fester unawares.

By Anne Enright
261 pp. Black Cat, Grove/Atlantic, Inc. $14

The Gathering: A Novel