My favorite author writes of warm breast milk and cotton, and mothers abed.

I could read Niall Williams’ writing from dusk till dawn. Not only do the Irish author’s words dance off the tongue like droplets from a waterfall, their juxtaposition evokes imagery so beautiful it makes me weep.

For Mothers’ Day I chose this excerpt from Williams’ novel The Fall of Light (Warner Books, 2001). It’s the long-ago tale of an Irish family, a father, mother and four sons, torn apart by broken dreams. The father, Francis Foley, steals a telescope from the master’s house and then flees with his sons, leaving behind a life of certain abject poverty for the vast unknown. The mother is lost; the sons and father separate and the world pulls them in different directions – until they find what matters most. 

In this scene, one of the twins, Finbar, and his wife Cait, have joined a Gypsy caravan, and are now stopped along the route where the entire group of women has given birth.

“They were both beautiful. They had their mother’s skin and their father’s eyes. They slept and suckled and seemed the children of such serenity that the turbulent passions of their futures could not even be imagined. Cait recovered from the ardour of her labor quickly but retained a kind of sensual fondness for her bed and lay there pillowed and luxuriant and told her husband she did not want to move. This mood was soon discovered general throughout the caravans. The mothers were abed. They did not want to travel on. The entire camp smelled then of warm breast milk and cotton and made the autumnal air by the lake heavy and drowsy.”

Willams’ other works include Four Letters of Love, As it is in Heaven, and O Come Ye Back to Ireland, which he wrote with his wife, artist Christeen Breen.

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