The Gathering opens with Veronica, a thirty-nine-year-old mother of two girls, briefly ruminating about memories, relationships, family secrets, and death. She touches these subjects lightly in the beginning, but these themes run throughout Enright’s story.
In the opening lines, Veronica wants to recount what happened in her grandmother’s home when she was eight or nine years old, but she is not quite sure if this event was real or imagined. She says, “I do not know how to tell the truth.” All she remembers are stories. These stories are influenced by her emotions, which may not represent what had happened. Despite her reservations, Veronica needs to put what she remembers down on paper.
Veronica begins to introduce her family, which includes (in the present time) her mother and eight siblings. Veronica’s father has died and three siblings are also dead. Veronica’s seventy year-old mother is losing her memory. This stands in contrast with Veronica, who is trying to refresh her memory. Her remembrances are stimulated by the days-old suicide of her brother Liam. The family is preparing to gather for Liam’s funeral.
Slowly, Veronica exposes the relationship between herself and her mother as well as the relationship between Liam and their mother, which was not a very good one. She claims her family had trouble loving one another. Veronica is at her mother’s house to tell her that Liam’s body was found in England, at Brighton Beach. Liam had drowned. He had placed rocks in his pockets to make sure of it.
Veronica believes that the “seeds” of her brother’s suicide “were sown many years ago.” She blames an unnamed person who is now dead. Then she begins a long tale about her grandmother, Ada. She conjures up a story that supposedly took place in 1925, when Ada was still unmarried. Veronica supplies many different versions of this story because, of course, she was not there, and now no one is left who can verify the details. Nonetheless, Veronica introduces Lambert Nugent. She imagines that Lambert is attracted to Ada, but for some reason, Ada ends up marrying Lambert’s best friend, Charlie Spillane. Of Ada’s background, Veronica imagines her grandmother may well have been, at one time, a prostitute, saved by a local do-gooder. Charlie marries Ada and makes her legitimate, although Lambert is at the house almost as much as Charlie (often when Charlie is not...
(The entire section is 996 words.)