In the Fall 2019 issue of Southern Humanities Review, William Walker concocts a suspenseful, haunting tale with “Saturn Devouring His Son.”
The short story brings readers out into the country where William and his mother live. The piece begins: “A car idled at the end of our driveway, and its lights were setting the living room curtains aflame. Somebody was out there walking around, but we could only make out the silhouettes stepping and out of the high beams near the pine trees.” The first pages continue with suspense as the two wonder if it’s William’s father outside watching them, the mother and son then learning how to shoot a gun in self-defense and surrounding themselves with familial support.
We’re momentarily lulled into putting our guards down as Tom Kaczynski comes into the picture, inserting himself as the new father figure to William and the new lover to his mom. William’s annoyance at his presence takes over the piece. Even as Tom takes measures to make the family safer, William’s dislike for Tom eclipses the worries of William’s dad.
However, the story reaches a brutal, explosive climax, shocking readers back into the state of tension from the beginning of the piece and we must watch as William tries to sort through his feelings in the days after tragedy strikes. Walker writes with clarity and detail, causing me to double check which genre I was reading several times. Was this fiction or nonfiction? At times I could believe either, a testament to Walker’s skill.
I recommend reading this story with several lights on, and only after you’ve double-checked the locks on your doors.
Review by Katy Haas