One of contemporary literary fiction's more drearily predictable genres is the childhood trauma narrative. An adult abuses (sexually or otherwise) an innocent child; the event, often kept silent by family members and repressed by the child him- or herself, turns out to be a tragic turning point in their life, shaping all that follows it; eventually, thanks to some other traumatic moment, the now-adult child (or someone else in their life) uncovers the event, narrates it, and achieves understanding, healing, vengeance, forgiveness, or some combination of the above. Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres is probably one of the most successful examples of this trend. At first glance, Anne Enright's The Gathering promises to continue it, only to immediately undercut our expectations: "I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother's house the summer I was eight nor nine," Veronica tells us in her first sentence, "but I am not sure if it really did happen" (1). Predictably, "what happened" involves the sexual abuse of her brother Liam, who commits suicide just before the novel begins; unpredictably, the novel deconstructs the childhood trauma narrative by admitting that, after all, the moment of trauma may itself be a fiction. Not only does Veronica have little in the way of solid family history, forced as she is to fantasize her grandmother's background and relationships with men, but also she repeatedly finds herself unable to stabilize her memories. Did two especially vivid childhood events happen in one afternoon, even though "common sense says that the two events should not have happened on the same day" (50), or has her memory strung them together to make a more effective, more affecting story? How and when do such events shape the future, then--in the moment they occur, or only much later, when Veronica seeks an origin that will explain her present? Thus, too, when Veronica promises us a pure declarative statement that will render Liam's suicide perfectly understandable--"It is time to call an end to romance and just say what happened in Ada's house, the year that I was eight and Liam was barely nine" (142)--even the account that follows grows fuzzy at the edges. She cannot fully remember her own reaction to catching Liam with Lamb Nugent (146); she forgets what happened for "twenty years," until child molestation starts making news headlines on a regular basis (172-73); and ultimately she has to admit that her memory of catching Liam and Nugent together cannot be accurate, as "Nugent would not have been so stupid" as to have molested Liam in the house (223). What, then, is left? "I know that my brother Liam was sexually abused by Lambert Nugent," Veronica announces, confidently, before going on, not so confidently, "Or was probably sexually abused by Lambert Nugent" (224). The original moment of trauma is long lost--and whose trauma was it? Liam's or hers? The crime turns out to have its own allure, precisely because it would give Liam's suicide some meaning, would explain her own problematic relationships with men. For what if, after all, nothing happened? Veronica desperately hangs on to Nugent because the alternative is even worse: "I know he could be the explanation for all of our lives, and I know something more frightening still--that we did not have to be damaged by him in order to be damaged. It was the air he breathed that did for us. It was the way we were obligted to breathe his second-hand air" (224). Even as Veronica sees her memories fragmenting and reforming, she still seeks for the one thing that would make everything make sense...even if that thing hangs amorphously in the "air."