Monday, April 6, 2009

One Story: A Splendid Life

A while back I subscribed to this really cool publication called One Story. They publish one story (get it) every three weeks. Their goal is to publish a new author in each issue (no repeats!) and to find the best stories for their readers. Check out their "about" page; this publication really sells itself.

Like all other things to do with this blog, I'm behind on reading this publication and on reviewing it. So up for today is Issue number 116, January 30: A Splendid Life by Carrie Brown.

As the title suggests, A Splendid Life is a story that looks back over a life, or in this case three lives: Peter Duvall, the main character, his sister Neely, and a childhood neighbor Mary Danger. Peter has just retired from his psychiatric position at the Balm of Gilead, a home for the mentally retarded and goes to visit his childhood home and his sister Neely who now lives there.

As Peter reflects upon his retirement he finds out that Mary Danger, a neighbor girl who had a crush on him when they were younger and who was teased cruelly and unrelentingly in school, has returned to her home across the lake. This causes Peter to remember his embarrassment over the girl's attentions and his feelings of pity for her social standing and appearance.

There were a few things I really liked about this story:
  • The language. Sometimes writers just get it right. I'm not much better at explaining it than that. The scenes flow well, the dialogue is great, and the descriptions are vivid and well done.
  • The ending. It's not a cliffhanger-type story, but I won't give away the ending. I'll just say that the ending was right.
  • The combination of introspective thinking and in-the-moment action was well balanced. Sometimes a writer can make a character be a little too selfish in their thoughts and there isn't enough story "right now".
  • The use of the lake throughout the story. I like how we saw Peter's different views or ideas of the lake throughout his life.
  • I also love the dinner-time scene with the young boys. Very funny, and very telling.
5 out of 5. Check out an interview with the author on One Story's website.
(100 shots of short #4)


JoAnn said...

This sounds like a story I would really like! Amazon doesn't seem to have a collection of her stories, but I realized that one of her novels is on my wish list.
One Story looks like a great publication...may I'll drop a hint for Mother's Day!

Book Psmith said...

This sounds like a great story and very timely for me as I have been thinking a lot today about childhood bullying (it was being discussed on the radio this morning). I love when I come across a short story when the writer just gets it right...those are the stories that stay with me. The One Story concept sounds very cool. I'll have to check it out.

John Mutford said...

Sounds good!

gautami tripathy said...

Liked your reflections about the story. WE somehow don't get to read enough of short stories.

I am kind of linking all the short story links I can find on my blog. I read short stories online, most of the times.

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