With just one sister, the mother/son dynamic in our house was made conspicuous by its absence. It seems often the son can become the love of a mother's life, filling all those failings of fathers and husbands and all those shortcomings too easily seen in one's own sex.
Colm Toibin is a mighty writer and I flew through these short stories. I swear I don't deliberately pick up Irish writers (it's not my fault we're so good with the wordsmithery) and you certainly don't have to be Irish to enjoy these. Incredibly poignant and, in my case, a little disturbing but in a deep way, rather intriguing.