Lost In The City by Edward P. Jones, 1992
The magic trick:
Interspersing the memory of a mother-daughter trip throughout the story of the daughter’s reaction following the mother’s death
“Lost In The City” is a deceptively complex story. The further I get away from the story, the more I think about it and the more I realize just how much is going on here.
The magic trick most easily identifiable is the use of the flashback to the mother and daughter’s trip to the Holy Land. It comes and goes throughout the main narrative – the present-day story of Lydia waking up in the middle of the night to find that her mother has died. The flashback offers insight into the mother’s character and the nature of the mother-daughter relationship. Maybe more importantly, it contrasts starkly with Lydia’s current lifestyle, offering the reader much to consider. And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.
“I can’t believe I’m walkin the same paths that my Lord walked,” her mother had said that second day in Israel, standing at the Church of Gethsemane. Lydia had presented the trip to her mother on her sixty-fifth birthday, and had even paid the way for Georgia Evans, her mother’s best friend. Lydia had not wanted to go, but her mother had insisted. “Oh, Lydia,” her mother had said, “what would the Holy Land mean to me without you bein there with me?”
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.