As Long as it Takes is a collection of short stories that deal with the life of an Irish family as seen through the eyes of the women, along with some close female friends. This might limit its readership, but the writing in this is neither frilly, nor precious, nor overly feminine. It is gutsy and full of balls, telling stories of a world that is brutal and colourful. There is plenty of humour -laconically delivered – along with grace and skill.
Voisey cites the last two stories in the collection as her favourites:
The last two stories (‘Self Help’ and ‘Combing out the Tangles’) are my favourite and the most emotionally raw. Throughout the book you become acquainted with the family members – particularly Maggie who was a standout character. In the penultimate short story we find her struggling with the burden of having to tell her mother (Maura) something. Maura is a hard woman and takes no nonsense. She comes to stay with Maggie and takes over the household – nothing is right in Maggie’s house and she wants to blitz Maggie’s kitchen, in the way that mothers are wont to do when they visit their offspring. As she cleans, Maggie battles the difficulty of imparting important news:
Maggie practised the words she needed to say in her head as her mother balanced on a stool, a bucket of water with a dash of vinegar in it on the ground.
We are left in no doubt about the awkwardness of their time together and it becomes clear that their history is one of non-communication […]
I won’t give the game away, but the final short story wraps up the relationship between Maggie and Maura. Narrated by Maura, it is tragic, but executed with dignity. The shortest of the stories in this collection, it is nonetheless long enough to show the reader that this woman, the peg that has always held her family together, is not as hard as she appears.
Debbi Voisey concludes: ‘this collection shows that when every story has been told and it is time to say goodbye, love and family are all that matters.’ You can read the full review at The Short Story.
As Long as it Takes contains the story ‘More Katharine than Audrey’, which was the winner of The Society of Authors Tom-Gallon Trust Award, 2015.