Will, Hilary, and son Brandon go to Hawaii for the husband's botany conference. It was supposed to be an opportunity for Hilary to get away from the monotony of her regular life. "He'd been concerned about her, mystified by her moodiness, unsure how to react to her increasing malaise."
The story is told in a shifting, third-person point of view. It's not distracting because it is smooth, not jarring.
The story is about change and adaptability. "He was exiting childhood, leaving her, bewildered, to trail behind. Perhaps it was simply the natural progression of things. She'd learned this from Will: there was no such thing as stasis, only pauses in the evolutionary pace of change." Her husband, Will, studies the way plants adapt to "specific environmental stressors."
This story works well in this issue of Natural Bridge. The previous story, "Calving," has much the same theme but takes place in Greenland.
There are some wonderful sentences. "He seemed to be in a state of constant adjustment, limbs newly awkward as he recalibrated the amount of space he took up in the world." Wonderful.
There are a couple of times in the story where I almost thought it was going to take a specific and predictable turn, but it didn't. "She passed a weathered wood sign with a fluttering red flag. 'No lifeguard on duty,' she called after Brandon. He gave a war whoop and charged into the surf." And, I was pleased when a tragedy didn't ensue.
This line substantiates the theme. "As she brushed her teeth, he explained how the researchers at the preserve had found a native tree that could close the pores on its leaves to keep from absorbing volcanic pollution." That is the same sort of behavior Hilary has when she loses herself in historical novels. The reader watches as Hilary might permanently lose herself. She contemplates the unthinkable. "It would be so easy to give yourself over to the current, she thought, to drift beyond the safety zone. To float away."
Another favorite line that enforces the theme of adaptability and change and just how do we build our lives. Does it just happen? How much is planned? "She'd wanted to believe it was possible to predict how everything would play out. Instead, through the combined impact of the accumulation of various small decisions, she'd been unknowingly assembling a life and had only now stepped back to assess what it was." I think this happens to a lot of people and can be shocking if one hadn't thought about it earlier. At the end of the story, I'm feeling hopeful for her but the ending is open enough that her comfort might be temporary. This is an excellent story showing a woman on the edge of falling into despair or embracing change and adapting to those changes around her.
LINK to website of Natural Bridge.