Every Little Hurricane by Sherman Alexie, 1993
The magic trick:
Telling the story with an adult’s wisdom but through a child’s perspective
Happy New Year! Sorry to hit you with a downer story as we turn the calendar over. The main action takes place at a New Year’s Eve party, but there is very little about this story that says new beginnings. If anything, it’s the exact opposite as the narrator laments the inability of the reservation population to break out of its cycles of defeat.
The narration combines the wisdom of an adult with the viewpoint of a child. It’s third-person limited from 9-year-old Victor’s point of view. This allows the story to stay framed within a 9-year-old’s observations and fears, so he stays out of the way of the action, hiding and observing instead. It also means we consider every scene as it might affect a 9-year-old’s state of mind – a very specific way to read a story. But because the narrator isn’t 9-year-old Victor himself, we also get occasional commentary about what the story means, why the characters do what they do and – most importantly – how it affects Victor. And that’s quite a trick on Alexie’s part.
Victor climbed on the bed and lay down between them. His mother and father breathed deep, nearly choking alcoholic snores. They were sweating although the room was cold, and Victor thought the alcohol seeping through their skin might get him drunk, might help him sleep. He kissed his mother’s neck, tasted the salt and whiskey. He kissed his father’s forearm, tasted the cheap beer and smoke.