This third-person POV story takes place in sub-Saharan Africa. Neal runs a lodge for tourists
and Roland is his partner. The story jumps right into Neal's concerns about Femi's, Roland's wife, casket and funeral. The foreshadowing and the suspense are well-handled. For most of the story, I didn't understand why Neal seemed as though he was closer to Femi than Roland but by the end of the story it is apparent that Neal feels guilt; however, only slightly, and we learn why. Neal does try to spare Roland what he can.
Obreht's words evoke dark claustrophobia, sounds of the wildebeests, and odors of rank hyenas as well as husband's despondency. And, I think, Obreht handled in a delicate way, meaning not overwrought, issue of a man, presumably a white man over a black woman, despoiling her dignity.
Favorite sentence: "It was the laugh that made his stomach turn, and they laughed all the time, every night they were there, as if they knew their laugh made him wonder, made him want to come outside to them in the dark, or, otherwise, put a gun in his mouth."
I believe this is the first Obreht story I've read. Sometimes I avoid authors who have been hyped to the hilt. But, I'll definitely read more of her work, short stories anyway, no novels.
"The Laugh" was included in the Best American Short Stories, 2010.
short interview with The New Yorker
National Book Foundation web page
Short Stories All the Time
- Ann Graham
- ------I use this blog to keep track of the short stories I've read along with a few of my thoughts about point of view, theme, setting and voice. I include journal and author tags.
------I write short stories; they are not posted online but I have a creative writing prompt book for sale on both Amazon and iBookstore.
Purchase READY, SET, GO WRITE! 1st edition available on the iBookstore
Purchase READY, SET, GO WRITE! 2nd edition on Amazon for the Kindle
Watch "Lemon Cookies," short story set to video.
Watch "Stories," flash fiction pieces set to video.