‘The Store’ by Edward P. Jones

The Store by Edward P. Jones, 1992

The magic trick:

Using an eerie bit of foreshadowing

This is the rare misfire from the Lost In The City collection – at least to me. It’s a shame, too, because it comes so close to being so good. I found the characters’ actions to serve the plot more than they stayed true to logical character development. I never really believed the narrator’s transition from angry youth into devoted, decade-long grocer. I never really believed Mrs. Jenkins disappearance from the scene. And I certainly didn’t buy years worth of weekly late-night meet-ups between she and the narrator. It just didn’t ring true.

There are certainly powerful elements here, though. Specifically, I love the eerie use of foreshadowing in the middle of the story when the narrator finds a cache of old photos at the store. He notes that he was “looking at the picture of the dead.” Sure enough, the plot twists dramatically shortly thereafter.

And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.

The selection:

One picture showed Joy Lambert, the mother of Patricia and Tommy Turner. Surrounded by several girlfriends, Joy was standing on what must have been a sunny day in front of the store in her high school graduation cap and gown. Al had written on the back of the picture, “June 1949. The world awaits.” This picture, above all the others, captivated me. You could tell that they were innocents, with good hearts. And the more I looked at those smiling girls, especially Joy, the more I wanted only good things for my nieces and nephews. Perhaps it was tiredness, but I began to feel that I was looking at a picture of the dead, people who had died years and years before, and now there was nothing I could do.

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