‘The Face’ by Virginia Sorensen

The Face by Virginia Sorensen, 1963

The magic trick:

Opening a mystery up into vague and complicated new implications

So we’re back to Virginia Sorensen for the second time during this week of Utah stories on the SSMT site. And I wouldn’t say it was because I so enjoyed the first Sorensen feature, “Where Nothing Is Long Ago.” It was all right, I guess? Truth be told, though, I just couldn’t find that many Utah short stories.

So here we are.

And, as it turns out, I’m so glad. I really, really liked this story a lot.

“The Face” tells us of the same 12-year-old narrator/author stand-in we met in the “… Nothing Is Long Ago.” She saw a man’s face looking in her bedroom just before the story opens, and the family – and town – are reacting to this mystery.

The mystery itself lies flat for the first few pages. But soon – maybe you’ll be quicker on the uptake than I was – the reader starts to understand that this incident and this face might be representative of more than a literal peeping tom.

That realization and the accompanying suspicions and interpretations it puts in the reader’s mind opens the story up to new depths and, frankly, even darker implications than initially considered. Growing up is hard.

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

The selection:

The front doorbell rang sharply, and I jumped, lifting my hands quickly against my chest. The water in the pan rocked and spilled over onto my apron. Mother hurried in. “That’s probably Phyllis. I don’t know why she can’t come around to the back door, but she never – ”

How they would hold forth this morning, when Mother told her.

Phyllis had her waterproof apron on. She was an easy woman, kind and real – like a sister, Mother always said. She looked at me. “I’ll swear, every time I see that girl she’s a shade prettier. I tell your mother, I never saw a girl like you. Seem to have missed the ugly age altogether.”

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