A story for March
‘In the Middle of the Fields’ is about a woman mourning her husband, feeling drawn to the past. This is reflected in the time of year it takes place. It looks both to the cool of winter and the warmth of the future: although set in spring, “there was a cutting east wind coming across the river.”
Much is underneath the surface of this story, in which a neighbouring farmer shares with the woman the story of his own lost wife and a new wife, too. Mary Lavin’s stories are subtle. Populated by determined women in rural Ireland, trying to live on their own terms, alongside the loneliness and the judgements of others. She shows us how the quiet, intimate overlooked details of life can be tremendously important.
First published in The New Yorker, May 1961, and available to subscribers to read here; collected in In the Middle of the Fields, 1967. Most recently published by New Island Books, 2016. Here it read by Colm Toíbín on the New Yorker fiction podcast here