Books: Moments of Recognition

CHRISTMAS EVE—13 STORIES

by MAEVE BRENNAN

244 pages. Scribners. $7.95.

Maeve Brennan is the kind of writer who can transform the arrival of a sofa in a lower-middle-class Dublin household or the cleaning of a carpet (one with big pink roses on it) into an extraordinary celebration of family love. She does this by a steady accumulation of detail and alternate flashes of passionate statement and raw insight. The accomplishment is formidable—something few writers attempt without sounding precious, dull, or both.

Her gift is flawlessly demonstrated in the title story from Christmas Eve,...

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