Home by Jayne Anne Phillips, 1979
The magic trick:
Setting up three or four different key themes at once
What an amazing story. These West Virginia stories are bleak.
Truly, it would be a strong enough story if all you had was the consideration of Vietnam’s ugly effect on a generation as viewed through the narrator’s two boyfriends.
But that’s just one part of the story.
There are the politics of sex. Generational differences. And looming over all of it? The shadow of sexual abuse that the narrator hints at (but never explains) whenever she mentions her father.
It’s a novel’s worth of themes and connections.
And that’s quite a trick on Phillips’s part.
I did all I could, she sighs. And I was glad to do it. I’m glad I don’t have to feel guilty.
No one has to feel guilty, I tell her.
And why not? says my mother. There’s nothing wrong with guilt. If you are guilty, you should feel guilty.
My mother has often told me that I will be sorry when she is gone.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.