I bought a copy of Clare Keegan’s novella Small Things Like These when I was in Bonn earlier this month, without realizing that it was set in the days leading up to Christmas. A good friend had recommended the book when it was first published, and I’m so glad I finally got a copy and read it. Each word is carefully chosen, each scene carefully crafted.

It’s the story of a particular time—Ireland in the 1980s—and a particular person—Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant—but the choices he faces about how to treat other people—family or friends or strangers, nearby or far away—are choices we all face, all the time.

December was a good time to read this beautiful, powerful book. I know it’s one I’ll return to again and again. I also love the cover, and I enjoyed reading this analysis of the detail from Bruegel’s “Winter (Hunters in the Snow, 1565).”

Coffee with my sister at Thalia, a bookstore near the Altes Rathaus in Bonn, where we found Small Things Like These and some other good books:

The scene in which Furlong returns to the house where he grew up is especially memorable. Here’s the first part:

Now, driving up the avenue, the old oaks and lime trees looked stark and tall. Something in Furlong’s heart caught and turned over when the headlights crossed the rooks and the nests they’d built and he saw the house freshly painted, with electric lights burning in all the front rooms, and the Christmas tree on display in the drawing room window, where it never used to be.

A snow-covered field in Bonn, from one of my late afternoon walks last week.

Thank you to everyone who’s responded to the blog posts I’ve written over these past few weeks. And whether you send comments and messages or not, thank you for reading! I’m grateful for the warm welcome and it’s wonderful to be back in touch with all of you again. I’ve missed our conversations.

I’m sending best wishes to you and your families and friends for a peaceful and happy holiday season. I hope you have lots of good books to keep you company, now and in the months ahead. Merry Christmas!