Friday, April 19, 2013

The Stoic Victims of Dysfunction - A Short Story Review

I have never been drawn to short story fiction, but I have recently had the pleasure of reading a work that may change my mind. 

 S.A. Williams’ short story Parable reveals the festering wounds of children of dysfunction. The narrator is Sam, a boy who has been forced to act as mediator and pacifier in the household of an abusive father. His close friend J.C. is a girl who has watched the corrosive effects on him of his family challenges, and by way of storytelling tries to open his eyes to the personal disintegration he is suffering. Although Sam considers himself the strong, stoic force in his household, J.C. realizes he is blind to what is happening to his life. She attempts to open his eyes through parable, spinning the tale of two uncles living separately in foundationless houses on the beach. One uncle is blind; the other is not. A storm comes up and damages both houses irreparably. The blind uncle doesn’t see the storm’s destruction, and tries to live on in his unstable house. The other realizes the futility of trying to fix the damage, and leaves. The metaphor is clear. You can’t fix what you can’t control.

The author provides stark imagery of Sam and J.C. walking along the cliffs above Lake Michigan. We feel the chill and stormy nature of the water as they talk and argue. They are both on the edge, “looking over”, struggling with demons. A mutual friend, Owen, a victim of child abuse, has already dealt with his own demon by committing suicide. Now, Sam and J.C. must decide how to deal with theirs. The resolution is deftly handled.

Williams has written a compelling story that is timeless. The reader is drawn into the conflicting emotions of the dialogue, the denseness of the theme. Childhood traumas are often hidden by quiet suffering. Our young can grow into adulthood shouldering invisible baggage. Occasionally, something unexpected reveals this baggage — sometimes with tragic results.

S.A. Williams is a writer to watch.  I believe readers will likely hear more from him in the future.  Visit his website at

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