>The New Yorker: "Old Wounds" by Edna O’Brien

>One more story from the summer fiction issue (and one that is readable online only if you’re a registered subscriber).

This one, by Edna O’Brien, has an old-fashioned feel to it. The narrator reconnects with her older cousin Edward after many years, and the two of them set aside hostilities that had resulted from some falling out between the families. They both seem to have a fascination with the family graveyard on an island in the Shannon River, and as the two become better acquainted, and even fond of one another, Edward suggests that the narrator might want to be buried there when the time comes. It isn’t entirely clear to me what caused the rift between the families, although Edward’s wife apparently kicked his mother out of the house at some point. The narrator relates how that happened and says, “But with so many dead, there was no need for estrangement anymore,” suggesting that it was related to the estrangement.

Edward isn’t well, but neither is his wife, and she dies first and is buried in the graveyard, even though she had previously said she wanted to be buried near town. My guess is that Edward has told her that the narrator will be buried on the island, and this has opened an “old wound” of jealousy. But the narrator’s failure to come to the funeral appears to have upset Edward as well, and nothing is the same after that.

And then Edward becomes ill. The narrator tries, but is rebuffed in her attempts to restore their relationship, until finally it is too late. But maybe she succeeded; she hopes so. In the end, she recognizes her ties to the graveyard, a bond that is ultimately unbreakable.

June 8 & 15, 2009: “Old Wounds” by Edna O’Brien

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