‘Sarah’ by Mary Lavin

Sarah by Mary Lavin, 1943

The magic trick:

A plot that with every turn casts a critical eye at the church

We close our week of Mary Lavin stories with perhaps the best of the bunch, certainly the darkest.

The name of the story is “Sarah,” but it’s clear from the start that the church, as filtered through the townspeople’s perceptions and expectations, will serve at least as a co-lead in this one.

Sarah has three sons, each out of wedlock. Her neighbors do not abide this, but because she is a respectful, responsible church-goer they allow her to continue to live among them.

How generous.

The plot is suspenseful in its dramatic turns, but it’s clear it’s truly only serving as a means for exposing the damage that can be done by a constrictive church culture.

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

The selection:

“Who else can I get?” Kathleen said stubbornly.

“Why do you want anyone? You’ll only be gone for three days, isn’t that all?”

“Three days is a long time to leave a house in the care of a man.”

“I’d rather let the roof fall in on him than draw Sarah Murray about my place!” said the women. “She has a queer way of looking at a man. I wouldn’t like to have her give my man one of those looks.”

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