Jean Thompson, “Wilderness”

dndmA single woman goes to visit an old college friend and her family for Thanksgiving.

(from Do Not Deny Me)

“Did you guys have a fight or something?”

Anna thought this must be what it was like to be a parent, some part of parenting. When you had to explain to children those things you did not wish to explain to yourself. That it was possible she and Lynn had never really been friends, that over time they had become a reproach to each other, and that people would do almost anything, contend with all manner of injuries to the spirit, just to keep from being alone.

If you read this site at all, you know that I love Jean Thompson’s stories. She has published four collections and I’m crazy about three of them (not her first, The Gasoline Wars, so much). These collections often move with me from room to room.

In this story, a divorced childless woman goes to visit an old friend from her college days. The friend has a husband and two children and a nice big house, all of the trappings of success, while the other is a failure, at least by societal standards. Turns out neither life is perfect, of course. The real story here is one of outgrowing someone, but keeping her around anyway. Or realizing you have no idea what you had in common with her in the first place. Anyhow, I love Thompson and think she’s terribly under-read. Part of the reason may be that she’s not publishing in magazines very often. Even though this collection is really (really) good, only two of the stories were previously published. I’m not sure why this is.

“Wilderness” originally appeared in One Story. Here’s a bit of it and a brief interview with the author.

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