‘The Last Lovely City’ by Alice Adams

The Last Lovely City by Alice Adams, 1991

The magic trick:

Driving interest with a building suspense for a dramatic reveal that never comes

The thing about Alice Adams is that she doesn’t have one setting, one theme, or even one style.

She’s one of those chameleon writers. So if you start this story and are surprised to find that her protagonist is an elderly Mexican doctor living in San Francisco, don’t be. You truly just never know.

This story is memorable for the way it walks right up to a dramatic reveal only to restrain its plot to something more mundane. To be specific, you will assume the Carla character is placed for dramatic plot twist. Is she looking for a relationship? Will he propose to her? Is she writing an investigative hit piece for her newspaper? You assume it’s one of these things. I’m spoiling the story to tell you that it proves to be none of those things.

But I think that’s OK. That move by the story is specifically designed to turn the reader away from dramatic reveal and focus on something subtler, more realistic, and ultimately more profound.

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

The selection:

Too much time alone, then, and although he had always known that would happen, was even in a sense prepared, the doctor is sometimes angry: Why must they leave him now, when he is so vulnerable? Is no one able to imagine the daily lack, the loss with which he lives?

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