‘In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried’ by Amy Hempel

I have been recommending this short story to everyone recently. I first read it years ago, but then someone linked to it on Twitter and I was reminded of it all over again. Another body slam of a story, this one about friendship, the family we create for ourselves, if we are so lucky. I find it hard to even write about this story without feeling tearful, and Hempel does this because of her complete lack of sentimentality. It’s about loss, about death, but written so sparely, with a dark, dark humour, and with almost everything unsaid, unwritten, left for you in the gaps. It’s one of the most powerful, beautiful and harrowing stories about the love between friends that I’ve ever read.

“Oh, yes.
For her I would always have something else.”

First published in TriQuarterly magazine in 1983, included in Reasons to Live (Harper Perennial, 1985), and available to read online here

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