This issue of Northwest Review features “essays, fiction, and poetry on aneurysms, arrhythmia, adolescence and other afflictions.” What caught my eye – and stoked my envy as a writer – was the excellent fiction.
Jenny Pritchett’s wonderfully titled short short (“What I Was Doing the Night My Mother Died of a Brain Aneurysm And my Father Tried to Call Me at My Friend's House Where I said I’d Be”) describes that fateful night with poetic concision. After sneaking out with her friend to a party the narrator returns to find her friend’s mother and father waiting up for them. “I thought they could smell it on me: beer, pot, sex,” the narrator relates, not knowing what has happened to her mother.
Michael Poore’s hilarious and heartbreaking “Bury Me Under the Drugstore, Mama” puts a new twist on a familiar storyline: a mega-store called AllMart opens on tribal land putting two Native Americans who run a family-owned drugstore out of business. After a failed attempt to protest the store’s opening the brother and sister duo take jobs at the new AllMart. Unable to stand her supervisor, the sister torments the woman with carefully placed Sporks. Poore’s comical take on discount mega-stores and the Hard Rock Cafe chain, which is purchased by the Seminole Nation, makes the story a pleasure to read.
But the strongest story by far is John Mandelberg’s “I thought of R.P.” A writer whose work I hope I see more of, his crystal clear prose and breathtaking storytelling would make any writer jealous. In the story, a recovering addict moves back in with his daughter and wife who have given him a second chance. The story is a stunning portrayal of addiction and recovery. After kicking his addiction, the protagonist takes a job with his sister’s brother fixing A/C unites and in a renewed interest in Judaism, starts taking classes at the local synagogue. In this, Mandelberg possesses an eerie talent for telling a story.
This issue also offers poetry, etchings by Eric Peterson, essays and translations from the Portuguese of poems by Astrid Cabral.