Rondine Al Nido by Claire Vaye Watkins, 2012
The magic trick:
Giving Alice Munro a run for her money as expert at casting a story against the way its events echo across a life for decades
Weekend double time for Claire Vaye Watkins, for my money one of the most exciting new writers of the last decade.
This story is very difficult. It’s a remarkable work but must come with a trigger warning as it details the trauma of sexual assault.
The remarkable success of this story is the way it deftly illustrates the aftermath of that assault. Ostensibly, it tells the story of two 16-year-old girls who drive an hour from their small Nevada town for a night of rebellion in Las Vegas. But the key is its brilliant use of a future-tense narration that draws one of the girl’s story out 14 years. She is telling a new boyfriend the story as part of a list of the worst things she’s ever done.
Talk about a powerful framing device.
And that’s quite a trick on Watkins’s part.
By then, there will be much to tell – too much. A pair of expensive tropical lizards she’d begged for, then abandoned in a field to die when their care became tedious. Birthstone rings and a real gold bracelet plucked from a friend’s jewelry box at a sleepover. Asking an ugly, wretched boy with circles of ringworm strung like little galaxies across his head to meet her for a kiss at the flagpole, laughing wildly when he showed. These she’ll have been carrying since girlhood like very small stones in her pocket. The sensible man will be waiting. Who can say why we offer the parts of ourselves we do, and when.
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