This Life She’s Chosen

Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum

I found it funny when one of the characters in an early story described a play as “very subtle … very oblique” — as it’s a pretty apt description of the stories in this collection. At first I felt annoyed that each one seemed to leave out a key detail I was wanting to know. But either I got used to it or the missing pieces were absent/less obvious. There’s a little Alice Munro in these stories, but they are a little less all-encompassing.

I loved “Lucidity” about a couple going, unannounced, to pack up the husband’s mother Gisela to take her to an assisted living home, on their anniversary. Shifting between the perspectives of the wife and Gisela, their impressions of each other are distant and complex. Mostly what is great is Gisela’s thoughts, how she is more aware and with-it than they realize. From her “So, it comes to this” when they arrive to later:

Lucidity, her son calls it when she looks most awake to him. But she thinks, No, it is not lucidity, it is boredom. On those lucid days it is as if each moment were flat enough to slide against the next and slip away, none more important than the other, none interesting to her anymore, or, at least, not as interesting as the more languid, dreaming moments of her non-lucid days. She feels like she is swimming then, when she is lost in her mind, and it is as pleasant as peaceful sleep.