‘Stitches’ by Antonya Nelson

Nelson, Antonya 1999

Stitches by Antonya Nelson, 1999

The magic trick:

Believable, natural dialogue

I feel like I’ve read a lot of stories lately that were really good in a lot of ways but ultimately were done in by bad dialogue. It can be almost embarrassing reading a story where the characters talk in ridiculous ways.

Fortunately, today’s feature – the very good “Stitches” – suffers no such fate. Good thing, too, when you consider the premise. The story essentially is a two-hour phone call between a mother and her daughter, who calls from college to talk through her first sexual experience, which may or may not be date rape. Needless to say, your dialogue had better be sharp to pull a story like that off.

Nelson delivers the goods. The mother and daughter talk in a way that is never anything but completely genuine. They each have distinct voices. They each maintain believable points of view. Sometimes they’re insightful. Sometimes they’re tongue-tied. In short, they each talk like real people. And that’s quite a trick on Nelson’s part.

The selection:

“You and Daddy met in college,” Tracy pleaded. “He was your TA.”

“That’s true.”

“I want to meet someone, I wanted to, I thought…”

“You will.” Would she? Ellen wondered. “You probably will, someone like Daddy. Someone who loves you.”

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