The New Yorker: “An Abduction” by Tessa Hadley

July 9 & 16, 2012: “An Abduction” by Tessa Hadley

As we learn from the Q&A with Tessa Hadley, the author means for Jane’s experience in this story—a girl making the leap into adulthood—to stand for the whole period of the 60s. We might have guessed that on our own, but it doesn’t make the story any more interesting. (The story is available to read for free online.)

I confess that I have a prejudice against coming of age stories. We have all come of age, and so it just isn’t terribly exciting to read about, is it? Unless something really unique happens or the story is told in an exciting way. Here, the author, by titling the story “An Abduction,” holds out the promise of something quite exciting. Although we are warned in the opening paragraph that everything will turn out all right, it’s still a disappointment.

Jane is playing in her yard, having been given conflicting commands by her parents. Some wild older boys drive by and when they invite her to join them, she goes. And she goes along with them and even takes part when they shoplift at a liquor store. They go back to the home of one of the boys—the parents are away, just as oblivious as Jane’s own parents—and they all get up to no good. Jane is attracted to Daniel, one of the boys, and that . . . ends badly. Sex, drugs, alcohol are all involved, not necessarily in that order.

But then the story jumps forward into a kind of epilogue, disclosing (in an omniscient voice that is appealing) what becomes of Jane and Daniel and the others. In fact, this summary explanation of their future (which actually brings them up to more contemporary times) made me think that the story might be an excerpt from a novel. No, apparently. I’m glad it’s a stand-alone story, but it’s not a stand-out story, for me.

About the author


  1. I share your general prejudice against coming-of-age stories, and I do wish the New Yorker and other publishing organizations would stop serving these up. But as these things go, I thought this one was a bit more readable. I particularly appreciated the fact that parents were so trivial and that there was no divorce, disease or abuse. If we must be saddled with coming-of-age, it’s good to at least hear from an author who recognizes that a major part of our formative experiences occur outside the home (the obsession of pop psychologists) and among peers. And I sort-of liked the use of the epilogue in this instance.

    BTW, I don’t for a minute buy into the notion that the story stood for the whole period of the ’60s. If the author truly believes that (she may or may not; she may have simply been looking to bring talking points to the New Yorker interview), then she would really need to get over herself.

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