Tuesday, June 18, 2024

SSW: "The Widow's Tale" by Richard Bausch, PLOUGHSHARES, Winter 2023-24, edited by Ladette Randolph and (poetry editor) John Skoyles: Short Story Wednesday

"The Widow's Tale" by Richard Bausch is a borderline horror story; one could choose to see nothing supernatural in it, despite such components as the characters' discussion of , and reflections on, afterlife as reality or metaphor, mediums of the spiritual sort, seance and the possibly illusory...or not...spotting by the titular widow of her late husband's shade, or at very least likeness, at a reading given by an acquaintance.

A not quite Chaucerian title (and one not too uncommon among stories and novels), it also hearkens back to Bausch's first contribution to Ploughshares, "The Wife's Tale", in the Winter 1978 issue, which I have not yet read.

It deftly describes the plight of widow Susan Bridge, whose sister Moira reports to her Moira's recurring dream of Susan's late husband Victor trying to tell Moira a message to pass along to Susan, a year after his faral single-car accident. Bridge and her family and friends are largely literary and other sorts of humanities scholars and artists, a milieu Bausch is very much a part of (Susan is a retired history professor, as an example), and Moira's concern that there might be more to her dreams than simple melancholy sparks the events of the story, a witty, humane and verisimilitudinous account of how grief, and the often baffled compassion of those around the bereaved, can and will express themselves, as well as how one takes on the nature (and arguably possible supernature) of existence while coping with mortality and its eventualities.  

It's worth a look.

Most weeks, Patti Abbott gathers the links to this roundelay of reviews; I might gather them, as I occasionally do, this week while she's on vacation.

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