|"...fat blueberry pancakes..."|
When the story was first published in The New York Times, it was titled "Everyone Was Invited." It's a first-person account of the death of an older sister and a father just three weeks apart. The father was old and his time had come but the sister had been stricken with a brain tumor. The story is all in "telling" mode and is told during a train ride. There are several themes. "You get older and see things more clearly..." Another theme, for me, is the stages of mourning that people experience. And, another concept, "Maybe you miss someone even more when you can't figure out what your relationship was." There's a lot to think about with that line. That's the beauty of Davis's writing. She examines everything minutely and intensely until something of immense meaning is cajoled out of that examination and the reader finds it applies to her. Another theme or idea that is picked at, like a hangnail, is the idea that family dynamics are fluid and shifting and ever confusing. Another truth that I don't believe most people acknowledge out loud but yet experience, "Once she was gone, every memory was suddenly precious, even the bad ones, even the times I was irritated with her, or she was irritated with me." While Davis explores these emotional concepts, she never forgets the visual and tactile, "Those treetops on a hill in the far distance were even with us for awhile, but when I looked again, they were behind us, though not far behind." The reader feels she is riding alongside, looking out the window, with the narrator.
"The Seals" is included in Lydia Davis's collection, can't and won't (stories). I can't recommend this book enough. I love her writing and love hearing her read her work aloud.