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Short Story Review: Chechnya by Anthony Marra

When I thought about short stories I loved, this is one of the first few that came to my mind. I must have read it, perhaps, a month or two ago, but it lingered in my mind. The hard part was finding it again. I remembered neither the title nor the author, but the story and the characters remained vivid in my mind. Finally, the search gods relented and I found it back. You can read it here (may require free sign-in)

Tim October summarizes the story thus:

This story is about 7,000 words long and it is really three stories which sort of “center” on the character of Sonja, a doctor in a nameless1 Chechen city. Sonja is a doctor in the city hospital who has a mysterious man arrive with a small girl. The story follows the man2 and his quest to protect the little girl he brings to the hospital, Sonja as she finds in the little girl a reason to go on, and on Natasha, Sonja’s sister and one of the reasons3 that Sonja is so damaged.

It is a reasonably simple story – the first line tells you what the protagonist wants (she has been ravaged by war and is struggling to find meaning in life) and the rest of the narrative has been carefully crafted to lead us to whether she finds it or not, complete with the several conflicts and resolutions along the path. Every new character introduced and back story told somehow contributes to the resolution of this MDQ. I am one of those who believe that such formulaic story telling ruins the beauty of a story, but somehow in this story, it works. I wasn’t even aware of it, till I started looking for it to write this review.

The characters are sympathetic. The circumstances are cruel. And I found myself transported into a world I did not know much about. A short story that satiates my craving to be a virtual tourist – excellent!

Posted in Short Story Month on December 2, 2009


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