Monday, June 23, 2008

LitMag Wave: One Story #104

“Harriet Elliot” by Robin Black has some outstanding moments. The arrival of Harriet in the co-op school is one of them, where at first the reader receives the narration in a collective, first-person plural that only later shifts into first person singular when the narrator breaks from the crowd and almost, but not quite, befriends Harriet. And Harriet is quite an interesting character, who may or may not be telling the truth about a harrowing experience she had when she was a toddler. Plus the hatred the narrator’s sister seems to feel toward her is palpable and interesting. It seems to be caused by the blame she puts on the narrator for the tension between their parents.

So it is hard to find fault with the writing of this story, but in the end it isn’t one that grabs me. It’s about an eleven-year-old girl and her world, which I rarely find promising territory for fiction, and other than the narrator’s relationship with the very odd title character, the story is about what happens in her family when her parents split up. If ever there was a tired subject, that would be it. There is enough going on in the story to rescue it from cliche, but I really wish it had gone in a different direction.

Even though I don’t love this story, Robin Black’s work is really promising, and I’ll definitely look for more of her stories.

2 comments:

Mark Richardson said...

I really liked this story as well! You're tougher than I. But the story I just read which i really, really enjoyed is "Benefit of the Doubt" by Tobias Wolff.

Clifford Garstang said...

The Wolff story is in the new book that just came out. I've been dipping into the book and will take a look at that one.