>by Douglas Trevor
This stunning collection of stories won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize in 2005. (This year’s winner is Jim Tomlinson. Congratulations, Jim, you’re in fine company!) The characters in Trevor’s stories have suffered loss–a lover, a father, a sister, a child–and the pages are filled with their beautiful mourning. (The collection is dedicated to the memory of the author’s sister.)
In “The Surprising Weight of the Body’s Organs,” Sharon, who has dedicated herself to hand-carrying transplantable organs from city to city in order to help cope with the death of her son from kidney failure. On one of these missions she writes her son a letter:
She put the letter in an envelope and wrote Matthew on the front. Then she placed it in the garbage can. They would dump the letter down a chute somewhere on this floor, she assumed, and then hopefully incinerate it, so that it would turn into smoke and rise up into the air, its ashes settling on the trees and greass that had grown up from the earth, the soil of which had been worked by worms that were descendants of those that had passed through the remains of her little boy’s decomposed body. Or so she chose to imagine it.
In the final story, “Fellowship of the Bereaved,” Jared has come home for Christmas, just six weeks after the death of his beloved sister:
Having someone in your family die prematurely ushered you into the fellowship of the bereaved, Jared thought. People who had not similarly suffered stayed away from this fellowship as best they could because they didn’t know what to say to a person grieving. But in fact, the horrible truth was that the people within this fellowship didn’t know what to say to one another either; each mourner was consumed by his or her own grief, so the group of sufferers that wandered through the social world like emotional lepers wasn’t a group at all; it was just made up of crippled people, none of whom could help anyone else.
This is a sad, truthful, heartbreaking piece of fiction. I look forward to seeing more of Trevor’s work. (Thanks, Kat!)