* Picked by Jo Lloyd
Full disclosure: it’s technically a winter holiday that kicks off this story, but a steamy Florida winter featuring all our favourite summer holiday ingredients – mean stepmother, resentful college girl, bored days by the pool, unsuitable boy picked up at burger joint, photo in Confederate flag bikini posted on social media. Oh. Dear. Claire doesn’t get it – she had Black best friends as a kid! – so on her return to college she doubles down with some spectacularly bad decisions. Everyone takes sides and things escalate rapidly. We might think we’re heading straight for something reductive and preachy, but we’d be wrong. Claire is no monster – she’s spiky and a bit self-destructive and she gets all the best lines. Her history with those Black best friends is tangled with love and grief. To say any more about the issues explored here would do a disservice to Evans’s handling of her material – funny, provocative, knowing, nuanced, and yes, angry. The story is both challenging and hugely enjoyable – as is the whole of Evans’s brilliant second collection.
First published in Sewanee Review, Fall 2017, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in The Office of Historical Collections, Riverhead 2020/Picador 2021
* Jo Lloyd won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2019. Her 2021 collection, published in the UK as The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies and in the US as Something Wonderful, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.