The story is enough.

The story is enough.

Monday, September 7, 2015

"Chicken Hill" by Joy Williams

 You can read this story in the September 14, 2015 issue of The New Yorker. 

This post can also be seen on The Mookse and the Gripes.
First Line: "She didn't know what had possessed her to participate in such a thing."

Last Line: "She didn't even see herself leaving, having just, at last, gone."

I am fascinated by stories of older women – how they look at their past, how they anticipate the future, and how they see their present experience.   This focus in fiction creates microcosms of how we all tell stories – create our own narratives – to make life a little bit easier, to validate who we have become.

Joy Williams took us right into the center of a story, knowing we would catch on rather quickly.  How can we not?  We see, even if Ruth cannot – will not.  

Ruth is like many we have met.  She has a sense of superiority, propriety, gentility.  She has seen the neighboring child before, but they only begin to converse when the older woman is eating lunch – a tuna sandwich with adverse effects.  The child is not there to play in her gulley (is that what Ruth would have loved to do as a child?) but to draw the woman with art supplies from a hard-to-ignore backpack.

A friendship of sorts is born.  The child visits.  Her questions are as pointed and guileless as her responses are very adult and clinical.

This story is sweet and simple.   The themes are universal – easy to find, and easy to connect with.  I am enthused by how unencumbered the piece is.  Even what may appear complicated – intricate - is really quite straight-forward.  
"Chicken Hill" is a clear-eyed view of what we do not like to see.

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