December 3, 2012: “Literally” by Antonya Nelson
The Q&A with Antonya Nelson doesn’t provide much insight into this week’s story, although it does help reconcile the fact that there is a whole lot going on in this story. Nelson reminds us that it takes place within the span of one day, and I suppose that does help to frame the story so that it’s not really getting away from the reader.
I have to say, first, that I recognized some elements of this story because they are similar to my own new book, What the Zhang Boys Know. Like my book, a young mother has been killed in an automobile accident, leaving a father to care for his children, and to deal with all the complicated practical aspects of single parenthood. Richard in this story at least has a housekeeper. In my book the father contemplates a replacement wife but, in the meantime, enlists his father’s help.
In any case, in this story the excitement comes from the temporary disappearance of Richard’s son and the son of the housekeeper. It turns out that they’ve taken a bus to the housekeeper’s apartment (in a very different part of town), where they’ve encounter the housekeeper’s violent ex-husband. Meanwhile, the Richard’s son makes a revealing comment that makes Richard think about his late wife, and also to ponder her mental instability.
I was definitely into the story, but I don’t think I love the ending. It’s available online. Read it. What do you think?