In van den Berg's must-read story "The Other Daughter," the narrator and her sister set sail on a cruise to Cozumel where they plan on releasing their mother's ashes into the ocean. Their strained relationship is put to the test when the vessel is stranded in the middle of the sea due to a fire that led to mechanical failure. After years of distance and now their mother's death, it seems like the last chance they have at salvaging what remains of their family:
“Stop pretending you were doing it all for her.” She lets go of me. She starts talking about how I have smarts and talent and I’ve been sitting on it for years. She tells me that no one gives a damn about Atlanta or air-freshener copy. That our mother dying was the first time she saw me approach anything with purpose.The familial undertones weaved in throughout make this dark topic a fun (at times) and unforgettable read; I will certainly have a different mindset on my next Carnival.
Jamie Lyn Smith’s story “Nature Preserve” is a page turner that speaks to many levels of humanity. While trying to solve a poaching case, two parks commission workers, Cecil and Ross, put the past behind them and unexpectedly form a tight bond. An ailing fawn brings these two men, as well as Ross’s girlfriend Skye, and a troubled teen, Billy, together into a mini family. The dynamic of this quartet highlights relationships, and not only what they mean, but what they do for an individual. Cecil breaks from solitude and a habitual bitterness, Ross accepts differences, Skye spreads her compassion, and Billy gets an alternative perspective of family. It is a coming of age story for all involved, not just the young boy, as they make sense of the world and their places in it. These characters will make readers think, and not always about positive things.
Of poetry, William Stobb’s “What is Happening” wouldn’t leave me. On face value, it is the narrator’s random thoughts, but what the speaker provides is indicative of the moments in which we stop and question our lives and society as a whole. Stobb shows how it is sometimes simple aspects of life that guide us to larger understandings:
Un-nameableWhether it’s sex or one’s favorite dairy products that help these conclusions be made, we sometimes have our most productive thoughts out of nowhere.
entities are responsible
—close to thermodynamic, centrifugal—
for hurting people
but also allowing sex
and ice cream to be combined
The July/August Issue is available now, and makes for a refreshing summer read. The Kenyon Review is housed at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, is published six times a year, and continues to fulfill the original founders’ goal of establishing a distinguished magazine.