To read the story, click the image or follow this link
Do you remember the holiday post that I put up back around Christmas? The one with the recorder chart on it? Well somehow, that post has become the first site linked to when you perform a variety of Google image searches relating to recorder fingering charts. It's bumped up site traffic a fair bit, but I imagine that a lot of those visitors are coming away very, very confused.
Anyway, it's been a while since I reviewed something sad for this blog. Today, we rectify that oversight with Jera's Tomorrow. After the break, etc.
Impressions before reading: Honestly, this story isn't giving me a lot to go on. From the description and tags on EqD, I gather that it's about Big Mac's wife visiting him in a hospital/nursing home/whatever, but that's pretty darn vague. Going in, I have no idea if this is something I should feel excitement or trepidation towards.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Big Mac's wife comes to visit him at the nursing home, just like she does every day.
Thoughts after reading: Let's start with the technical stuff, so I can move on to the bits I really want to talk about. Imperfect word use was a frequent problem (The first phrase, for example, is, "Droplets of rain tickled down her nose." The verb-object agreement would be better if either trickled replaced tickled, or if the word down was omitted), but was never terrible or really mood-breaking. Other than that, grammar/sp were good. My only stylistic complaint is the font used. I'm no expert on font choice, so I can't tell you at a glance which one the author used. What I can tell you is that the font was fairly large and bold, which created an effect similar to (though less distracting than) typing in all caps. There's a reason the standard fonts are standard; using anything other than your most typical serif and sans-serif options should rarely be done, at least for the body of a piece of writing.
Now, on to the story itself.
I have had multiple experiences with family members who, due to either dementia or strokes, lost some or all of their responsiveness in their twilight years. If you have not been in that position yourself, I fervently hope that you never are; few things in life are more painful than to literally watch a loved one slip away before your eyes.
Although none of my relatives' conditions precisely mirrored Big Mac's in this story, that same quiet desperation which I always felt is beautifully portrayed here. The aching poignancy of having a loved one sitting right beside you, yet being present in flesh only, is handled deftly. Never does the story stray into ham-handed drama or maudlin wailing.
I can't honestly say that I know the reading experience would be as strong for someone who hasn't been in this position themselves. I know that when I read this story, my own experiences were immediately evoked (which is a tribute to the writing in and of itself), and I can't imagine that that hasn't affected my judgement. Still, I found this to be one of the most emotionally engaging stories which I've ever read.
There really isn't much more to say. Jera shines the unblinking focus of the narrative directly on the heartache of watching someone you love disappear, but never goes mining for drama or unwarranted angst. The delicate balance between respecting the characters by showing who they really are on one hand, and exploiting the characters for the sake of drama on the other, is never allowed to tip towards the latter. For a variety of reasons, this sort of stoic understatement resonates deeply with me. For me, it was a more real depiction of such a personal tragedy than many human-populated stories I've read.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
This story deftly addresses one of the most painful subjects imaginable, but does so with quiet respect for its characters and their suffering. It's one of the most moving stories I can ever remember reading.
Recommendation: If you're looking for a sad story, this is one of the best I've seen from this fandom. I would put it right up with Bubbles. Both stories share a common theme: they deal with a character unable to understand the magnitude of their own loss. A powerful idea, and expertly evoked here.
Next time: Get Lucky, by Chicken Vortex