"Settlers" is the final story in Rebecca Lee's collection, Bobcat and Other Stories. It is twelve pages long and packed with themes, events, people and wonderful descriptions. One of my favorite lines is, "I was in the middle of a protracted miscarriage--the baby still alive, but with a heartbeat measuring once a minute, like one of those sea creatures that live at the floor of the ocean."
Two women, aged thirty-five at the opening of the story, have diametrically opposed home lives. One is settled with husband and children and an idyllic house with garden. The other is in a relationship in which the guy doesn't even know he is part. Denial, wishful thinking, passive aggression. When the narrator finally stops hoping that David will partake in a relationship with her, she meets someone at a raptor center, the prey bird picks her up when she's almost dead. Then she gets pregnant and loses the baby in a long carried out abortion. Her friend finds out that her husband did cheat on her despite the idyllic look of their family life.
The narrator is in the process of writing a script for a television show about feminism and women but two of the characters insult all screens in that people who watch them cannot possibly be fully living their lives. Passive aggressive behavior, denials, faithlessness, and even politics and severe weather are brought into play in this story. I take the ending to be that it is indeed okay, dear child, to pass on this life, don't blame you at all.
For me, the overarching theme of "Settlers" is in the first paragraph, "pretended it was on solid ground." So we see several people pretending at different levels. David Booth pretends so much that he never engages in life. He reads about it and writes about it. Lesley tries with her children and house but her husband cheats but she's pretended for a long time. And even when she finds out, she keeps him around, albeit demarcated in special and separate rooms. Berber pretends that it is okay for her to commit to a man who isn't yet free. The narrator doesn't eat like an adult except when she goes to her friend's home for dinner. We pretend about a lot in our lives but, hey, what is the alternative. Sometimes it is pretending that keeps us going.
I rarely read stories in the order that they are in a collection nor do I read all of the stories in a collection. I skip around collections and authors but am anxious to read more Rebecca Lee stories.