‘The Walk’ by Elizabeth Strout

The Walk by Elizabeth Strout, 2017

The magic trick:

Getting the reader comfortable in warm nostalgia before delivering a shocking dose of reality

This story is so good it’s almost mean. It wraps the reader in the warmth of nostalgia. You get a nice small-town vibe going. Old memories. Lost loves. And then, boom! Reality hits. It’s not warmth. It’s not sweet. It’s awful.

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

The selection:

And then his mind returned to his children. They were quiet, he thought. Too quiet. Were they angry with him? All three had gone to college, and his sons had moved to Massachusetts, his daughter to New Hampshire; there seemed to be no jobs for them here. His grandchildren were okay; they all did well in school. It was his children he wondered about as he walked. Last year at Denny’s fiftieth high school reunion, he had shown his eldest boy his yearbook, and his son had said, “Dad! They called you Frenchie?” Oh sure, Denny said, with a chuckle. “It’s not funny,” his son had said, and gotten up and walked away, leaving Denny with his yearbook open on the kitchen table.

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