‘The Barrel Of Rumors’ by Maeve Brennan

The Barrel Of Rumors by Maeve Brennan, 1954

The magic trick:

Perfectly creating the middle-ground youth of a 12-year-old narrator 

As we wrap up this week of early autobiographical stories from Maeve Brennan, we find young Maeve getting a little older in “The Barrel Of Rumors.” She is 12 years old, and the story perfectly represents that weird, awkward middle territory of youth.

We see her in some position of responsibility, taking her little brother across town by herself. But we also see her in a continued state of immaturity and naiveté. She desperately wants to know about the nuns. What do they look like? What do they do? Do they sleep in coffins?

Basically, she’s 12.

And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

I asked my mother many questions about the nuns, but her answers were never satisfactory. One time that I remember asking her about them, her younger brother, my Uncle Matt, was lounging about the room. We were in the front sitting room, and she was trying to coax one of her precious ferns to twine itself around a long bamboo cane that she had stuck into its pot.

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