Whether fiction or nonfiction, a story asks us to suspend our disbelief, to make the world of the storyteller ours. If the writer tells the story well, we give ourselves over and the story returns at odd moments as we go about our usual lives.
These six pieces, three fiction, three nonfiction, capture our imagination in different ways, but they all speak to the unavoidable experience of loss and to the altered state loss creates, Joan Didion’s “year of magical thinking.”
The first two tales use the altered state of magical realism to convey the depth of loss. In “Scarab Man” and “Planetary Influences,” we meet a homeless man and a kitten who provide healing magic to a grieving widow and a frightened child.
Sometimes objects are talismans of healing. In “Bone of the Past,” a quilt made many years before by the narrator for her mother brings healing after the mother’s death.
The narrator in “Teachings: A Buddhist Ghost Story” has lost the teacher who helped her walk the path of dharma. As she walks her own path of grief, she receives her talisman in a final “teaching,” to inform the rest of her life.
Will the jeep in “Wrangler” take the narrator back to her “badass” self? We know she believes it will. Like the quilt, the jeep, as real as its four-wheel drive, is a talisman.
The loss in the novel excerpt “A Nicaraguan Spring” comes from the war that tore Nicaragua apart. Two very different narrators show us how hard it is “to understand stories of war in times of peace.”
We invite you to suspend your disbelief and enter the worlds of these stories. We hope they stay with you in your ordinary lives, as they did in ours.