Wordy Wonderland

Pondering ‘Once the Shore’ by Paul Yoon

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This is the story about a woman after the death of her aged husband and a waiter after the death of his brother. There is some humor in the story, but it’s overall a contemplative piece. Part of my struggle may be due to the fact that it’s been a really long time since I read short stories outside the romance genre. However, keeping that in mind, I will review and analyze.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I like the end and how it made me stop and think. Not much actually happens on the page, but a lot of emotional growth goes on, or at least appears to, especially in the waiter.

I found the waiter’s story more satisfying, as he made decisions and acted. The woman made the decision to come to the island, but after that seems stuck in indecision. She makes choices (asking to be led to the caves, etc), but it mostly feels like a hollow charcter being pulled along a path. Part of it may be that there is very little resolution in her story. She doesn’t know any answers to her questions and likely never will. And that’s fine.

But I didn’t really feel any change in her, and since I was in her head half the time, I would have liked something more. Perhaps her end scene is meant to tell us everything, but it felt too much like a man not knowing how to write a woman and thus giving this empty character for the young man to balance against. I don’t know if that is the case, or if she just ends unsatisfactorily, but her tale, while interesting, didn’t lead to growth, which I found disappointing.

The structure worked to create the two chacters, illustrate their problems, then resolve, or not, that issue. Because the action is so mellow, it’s a very different feel, especially since it ends on what is visually a very dramatic scene, but as the reader I feel like I’ve been left to do all the work and figure out what happened.

Maybe it’s the difference between literature and pulp. Short story and novel. Personal preference. I shall read on and figure it out, I guess.


Author: bldayhoff

A writer in the works.

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