This story can be found in the September 7, 2015 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
This post can also be found on The Mookse and the Gripes.
First Line: "It was a little after 7 A.M., and outside in the garden her nine-year-old son, Finn, was stringing a tennis net between two trees, stringing it not in the normal fashion, the way one might want to play tennis, but horizontally, like a hammock."
Last Line: "For a moment, they appeared freeze-framed, as if someone had pressed pause, and, just as she thought that they would surely fall, they scattered like gunshot across the evening sky."
"In the Act of Falling" is a story of isolation, loneliness, threat of defeat. Here you will find no new revelations of the effect of the economy on families nor will you find a tale that is new - never been written.
Times become hard, quite suddenly, and Bill languishes at home, too depressed to find work. He keeps a sort of company with his son, Finn, suspended from school for a fight, and together they descend into their own brand of survival. The protagonist - wife, mother, bread-winner - unnamed, carries her own miseries and concerns, apart from what her small family struggles with.
There are a lady missionary, dead birds, and a homeless man propelling the internal story of the woman into action. Despite feeling removed and alone from her son and husband, she is still utterly connected to them. She can remember laughter, pride, and love.
Danielle McLaughlin's writing voice is lyrical, somewhat reminiscent of 19th century English literature. Her tone creates, with mastery, images with resonance and power. There are no fits-and-starts when reading this piece - it flows until the end bringing us to a brink. We are left with a wisp - an idea - that lingers, like the noise left by a flock of birds, suddenly taking off in flight.
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