In the Event of Contact: Insightful stories about trauma’s lingering hold

Ethel Rohan convincingly explores human contradictions in an impressive collection

Ethel Rohan has written an extremely fine collection

Ethel Rohan has written an extremely fine collection

In Marilynne Robinson’s plangent novel Lila, the emotionally wounded main character observes, “When you’re scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it’s kindly meant.” Throughout the impressive stories that make up In the Event of Contact, Ethel Rohan explores such human contradictions: the early injuries that compel us to recoil from the very contact we need; our hunger for connection counterbalanced by a longing to become our discrete self; the tension between solitude and loneliness; the perils of intimacy.

Most of Rohan’s subjects have been trespassed against: a philandering father rejects his son; “a bloated, middle-aged neighbour” abuses a child. Most of her main characters are grown up by now and, in some of the stories, their early injuries are a secret they keep even from themselves. But through subtly wrought metaphors and similes, Rohan draws us beyond the accommodations they have made in order to survive, and into the heart of their trauma. 

The Irish Times
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