I just read two wonderful short stories from Richard Russo’s The Whore’s Child. The first, from which the book gets its name, tells the story of a nun who, during the course of a writing class, discovers unexpectedly, something that she had never suspected about her parents – something that completely overturns the assumptions she has held for decades. A worthy prototype for a short story with a shocking ending, like Maugham’s incredible Rain.
Joy Ride, the second story – and the one I liked more – tells of a mother who abandons her husband and takes her twelve-year-old son on what is to become a road trip across the United States. Throughout, the reader is aware that this venture will not end well, that the flight would turn out to be “devoid of glory”. Russo seems to understand his characters deeply, and perhaps that is why he is so accomplished at fleshing them out in so few words. Years later, the reader discovers, mother and son have completely different recollections of the joy ride from hell. I loved this, because it is so true in real life; that, as unbelievable as it seems to oneself, one’s memories of an experience can be morphed by time into a sequence of events that never really took place.