I’m always amazed when I read a good short story especially since I know that they’re not easy to write. Despite their difficulty, short stories aren’t talked about as much as novels (or maybe I’m wrong?). So, let’s talk about them!
Whether they had me crying or cringing in fear, I’m going to share with you four short stories that moved me this year.
What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
In Arimah’s story, global warming crippled today’s political giants causing them to flee to Africa for safety. It’s here where our gifted main character, Nneoma, lives. She’s a rare mathematician that uses a special formula to extract emotional pain from her subjects—for a price! Like most in her profession, she’s wealthy and only caters to the highest bidder. But there’s an unforeseen price for taking in all those horrible emotions.
While the world building, overall story concept, and Nneoma’s unlikable personality were interesting, what moved me was the people Nneoma encountered. She wanted to avoid a young girl, for example, because she could see the child’s pain–and it was a doozy: her family died in a flood, she was abused in refugee camps, and was hated because she wasn’t a full African citizen.
Heartbreaking, right? Nneoma came to tears when she extracted the girl’s pain into herself and, honestly, I almost did too.
Kin by Bruce McAllister
Since Earth is overpopulated, a young boy’s unborn sister must be aborted by government decree. He reaches out to an Antolouian assassin, an alien from a complex culture, to kill the man who signed the order. As the story moves on, an unforgettable friendship form between the desperate boy and lonely alien assassin.
Their relationship starts off professional, but, as we learn more about the alien’s culture and that it’s an exile, the two begin to respect each other.
What makes this relationship moving is that everyone is afraid of the alien and for good reason. It’s kinda creepy:
Closing his eyes, the boy could see the black synthetic skin the alien wore as protection against alien atmospheres. Under that suit ropes of muscles and tendons coiled and uncoiled, rippling even when the alien was still. In the doorway the long neck had not been extended, but he knew what it could do. When it telescoped forward—as it could instantly—the head tipped up in reflex and the jaws opened.
But the boy shocks the alien when he ignores his fears and treats it like a person. Turns out the alien only wanted to be…well, wanted and treated with decency.
Don’t we all?
The Shadow in the Rose Garden by D.H. Lawrence
We follow a not so happy couple on their anniversary: the wife is manipulative, the husband (Frank) is possessive, and both are emotionally withdrawn from each other. The wife decides to take a stroll in a local garden where she’s reunited with her long lost lover, Archie, who supposedly died in a war. Only he’s not the same because…well, he’s bat shit crazy. She runs home distraught and demands to be alone. Frank, however, has had enough of her disassociated behavior. The two argue and both walk away broken hearted.
The difference in how the couple communicated in the beginning (withholding their emotions) versus how they communicated in the end (explosive emotional argument!) is what grabbed my attention. Plus, Lawrence’s writing made me drool. His characters purposely try to hurt each other and the descriptions between their dialogue speaks volumes:
He shrank, and became white, impersonal. There was a long, paralysed silence. He seemed to have gone small.
“You never thought to tell me all this before I married you,” he said, with bitter irony, at last.
To Room Nineteen by Doris Lessing
Susan Rawlings has a marriage that would make anyone green with envy (at least, that’s how her peers felt). Only it’s not so great. Her husband cheated on her and being a stay-at-home mom isn’t fulfilling. She decides to separate herself from her family by renting a motel room where, after discovering her husband cheated on her a second time, she commits suicide.
I thought it was sad how Susan felt so unsatisfied with her life. She couldn’t get the things she craved (like returning to her creative career at the advertising firm) because others depended on her for their happiness. To make matters worse, she was too prideful to express her inner troubles and this unwillingness to be vulnerable is what leads to her downfall.
There you have it: four moving short stories you should make time in your life to read.