‘The Most Girl Part Of You’ by Amy Hempel

The Most Girl Part Of You by Amy Hempel, 1990

The magic trick:

Casting two teenagers’ discovery of love and friendship against a backdrop of mortality, loss and pain

A really beautiful love story today on the SSMT website. Hempel takes you into an adolescent friendship with details so nuanced, clever and funny that you can’t help but feel like you know these kids. It really is remarkable writing. No one writes funny, clever and witty characters quite like Hempel, because perhaps no one is quite as funny, clever and witty as Hempel.

So that’s obviously pretty crucial to making this story work. But I think the other, maybe simpler, thing is the combination of life and death here. There is a joyous innocence throughout as these kids flirt and enjoy each other’s friendship and discover the joys of love. But that’s all shrouded in this oppressive sense of mortality that they live with everyday. Both characters have lost parents. They are processing the kind of pain that the most mature of adults don’t know how to handle. It’s innocence and world-weariness at the same time. And that’s quite a trick on Hempel’s part.

The selection:

That was before his mother died. She died eight days ago. She did it herself. Big Guy showed me the rope burns in the beam of the ceiling. He said, “Any place I hang myself is home.” In the movie version, that is where his father would have slapped him.

But of course his father did not – didn’t slap him, didn’t even hear him. Although Big Guy’s father has probably heard what Big Guy says about the Cubs. It’s the funniest thing he can imagine; it’s what he doesn’t have to imagine, because his father really said it when he had to tell his son what the boy’s mother had done.

“And what’s more – ” his father had said.

It may have been the sheer momentum of bad news, because in that vast thrilling silence after Big Guy heard the news, his father had added, “And what’s more, the Cubs lost.”

“So you see,” Big Guy says these days about matters large and small, “it’s not as if the Cubs lost.”

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