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.