Last week’s story was very good, but this one is better. Or at least I enjoyed it more and was more compelled to keep reading. Alison is fourteen, almost fifteen. She’s a typical teen, maybe brighter than most. She does ballet, loves everyone, has an active imagination (love the thing with the talking baby deer from whom she hides the death of its mother), and looks down on the neighbor kid, Kyle, with whom she played as a kid. But Kyle, into whose point of view we shift, is also pretty normal, except that his parents keep an extremely tight leash on him. Both kids have parents who are trying to do the right thing, and have taught their kids what is expected of them.
Which makes what happens very interesting, because Alison breaks the rule by opening the door to a stranger, and Kyle breaks the rule by intervening in someone else’s business in order to rescue her.
We also shift, briefly, into the point of view of the twisted guy who is attempting to abduct Alison, and his voice is interesting, but the real highlight of this story would be the voices of Alison and Kyle as rendered solely through their interior monologues. Great stuff. I especially liked Kyle’s, given how repressive his parents are and how rebellious his thoughts are at times. He’s very tightly wound, and he’s going to explode eventually, but not today.
The story ends back in Alison’s head, which is perfect (symmetry, etc.), even though I really would love to get another glimpse of Kyle’s house when his parents find out what he’s done. Maybe Saunders will write that story. It will be a terrific read.
October 5, 2009: “Victory Lap” by George Saunders