‘Company Of Strangers’ by Aryn Kyle

Company Of Strangers by Aryn Kyle, 2004

The magic trick:

Giving us a self-destructive protagonist who makes the wrong decision every single time

Yesterday we looked at Aryn Kyle’s “Brides” and noted its (sometimes unlikely) twists and turns. Pushing stories to the brink of believability is a recurring theme in Kyle’s Boys and Girls Like You And Me collection.

The other common trait in those stories shows up in today’s feature, “Company Of Strangers,” a tale of sibling angst. The trait? A protagonist who seems to willfully make the wrong decision every single time. This puts the reader in a difficult position. We read most fiction – I think, at least – both wanting good things for the people whose point of view we assume and judging their every move fairly harshly.

So if those twin desires are guiding your reading experience, you can see where Kyle’s self-destructive protagonist is always doomed to hurt the reader.

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

The selection:

“Daddy says that Grandpa was a bad man,” James said. He glanced behind him and lowered his voice. “Daddy says that Grandpa had girlfriends and it broke Grandma’s heart so bad it killed her.”

I lifted my eye patch to look at him. “That’s why Daddy is a lawyer instead of a doctor,” I told him. “Cancer killed Grandma. Check the records if you don’t believe me.”

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