Short Story Review from: The Best American Short Stories 2004 – “Written in Stone” by Catherine Brady

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction. This selection comes from The 2004 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Lorrie Moore.

I found myself immediately immersed in this story about an Iranian husband and his American wife, who separate after twenty years of marriage and try to navigate their new relationship. The narrator, a surgical nurse at a hospital in San Francisco, has told Hassan to leave because she cannot bear the thought of his betrayal. He’s moved in with a younger woman, an aspiring opera singer.

Hassan works as a liaison for a nonprofit that connects government, scientists and business and his overly gregarious nature has gotten him in trouble. He’s not being inappropriate, he tells his wife, he’s simply misunderstood. His behavior has gotten him into trouble before. Early in their marriage, they’d moved to Iran and lived with his family, during the fall of the Shah’s regime and the Ayatollah’s takeover. He’d talked too much, told too many jokes, and was picked up for questioning. They’d had to leave the country illegally.

Now, at Hassan’s insistence or maybe feelings of guilt or longing, he returns to their apartment once a week so they can have dinner together. Lately he tells her about his problems between him and the young singer. Some are because of the age difference, but one of the biggest problems for her is his drinking. The girlfriend doesn’t understand him, he complains to his wife. It’s a new dynamic between the narrator and Hassan, in which they analyze this new relationship. The reader sees them move back towards each other, through the routine of preparing meals together and talking companionably.

I enjoyed this story very much because of the contrast and similarities between Hassan’s marriage and their experiences in Iran. The author provides strong images of freedom, family loyalty, lush gardens with climbing roses, Persian cooking and dangerous political unrest. Hassan’s history and their marriage left me uncertain about their future together because I couldn’t quite decide if they would try or what concessions she would make, or even if they were concessions. I felt that they understood each other very well, but I wondered if that would be good for their marriage. I read this story twice and felt it even more the second time.

I highly recommend “Written in Stone” which the author wrote soon after 9/11.

Catherine Brady is an American short story writer. Her most recent collection, The Mechanics of Falling & Other Stories, was published in 2009. Her second short story collection, Curled in the Bed of Love, was the co-winner of the 2002 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and a finalist for the 2003 Binghamton John Gardner Fiction Book Award. Brady’s first collection of short stories, The End of the Class War, was a finalist for the 2000 Western States Book Award in Fiction. Her stories have been included in Best American Short Stories 2004 and numerous anthologies and journals.

Brady received an MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Hollins College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts. She was elected to the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in 2005 and served as Vice-President (2006) and President (2007). She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

15 thoughts on “Short Story Review from: The Best American Short Stories 2004 – “Written in Stone” by Catherine Brady

  1. Thanks for featuring this resource. My favorite short story writer is Alice Munro, but she may not be listed in the contents because she is Canadian. She has won a Nobel Prize for Literature and is noted for stories which travel backward and forward in time.

    “Written in Stone” sounds intriguing. I appreciate the suggestion, Barbara!

    1. Hi Marian – thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I have read Alice Munro. She is excellent. Hope you are doing well. I hope to be back on the blog more regularly soon. 🙂

    1. Hi Pam, yes he was a little self-involved. But what I liked best about the story is how well they knew each other because it made me wonder if they were good for each other or if they should stay separated. That’s such a great element in a short story, to be unsure about the resolution. Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you are doing well. All is going fine here, just so busy! I hope to have more time to be back on my blog 🙂

      1. Love your blog so hope you find time for it. But I skipped writing last Friday’s post for the same reason. Busy season, even though it’s a quiet one, compared to others!

    1. Hi Ann – I am a big fan of short stories and these Best American Short Stories anthologies are full of great writing – I have about 4 different volumes. Thanks for the visit. I hope you are doing well and I’ll be by soon 🙂

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