(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“In the Gloaming” focuses on a mother’s efforts to come to terms with her son’s dying of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The story begins when Laird, the thirty-three-year-old son, comes home to die and says he wants to get to know his mother, Janet. Martin, the father, is obsessed with his work and has never had much time for his wife or children. On a summer evening, after they have eaten on the terrace and the father goes to his study to work, Laird looks at the sky and says he remembers that when he was a child his mother told him that this time of day—the late afternoon just before dark—was called the “gloaming” in Scotland. He says he has been remembering a lot recently, mostly about when he was small, probably, he says, because his mother is taking care of him now as she once did.

Laird is well aware of his father’s work obsession and feels that his dying is just one more in a long line of disappointments that he has caused his father. When Janet tells him that Martin’s failure to spend time with Laird is his loss, Laird says it is his father’s loss in her case also. Janet has always known that Martin is an ambitious, self-absorbed man who probably should never have gotten married in the first place. In one of their conversations, Janet says she does not like reading about sex, not because she is a prude but because she believes that sex can never really be portrayed, for the sensations and emotions of sex are...

(The entire section is 459 words.)