‘Ghosts and Empties’ by Lauren Groff

This was pressed on me by a different writing teacher, Derek Palacio, a fine novelist and generous teacher I was lucky enough to spend time with recently at the University of Michigan. How he anticipated my mood quite so precisely would be worrying if every parent hadn’t felt like Groff’s narrator at some point. Suffice to say, her unnamed mother opens by saying she has somehow become a woman who yells, and, because she doesn’t want to be a woman who yells, whose little children walk around with frozen, watchful faces, she laces on her running shoes instead and heads out after dinner for a walk. And if that doesn’t have you immediately clicking on the link, or heading to buy her collection, which is jammed with other joys, then you probably aren’t a parent, which is fair enough, except doesn’t everyone yell, parent or not? Through the narrator, we meet an entire neighbourhood, studied, at a distance, as the woman paces the streets. Groff’s language is visual, her images striking. It’s a story to read and re-read and then read again.

First published in The New Yorker, July, 2015. Collected in Florida, Cornerstone Digital, 2018. Read it online here

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