It isn’t often that I crack open a story and feel profoundly jealous….
That’s what happens when I read The Hunter’s Wife (from The Shell Collector).
I have quite frankly had enough of these stories where a woman makes tea in her kitchen, where a man goes to the grocery store and aimlessly wanders its aisles, where over dinner they take tiny bites of lemon basil chicken and speak to each other without really speaking to each other. Throw in a sick kid and a bleak epiphany, and bam, we’re done. Essentially nothing happens.
In Doerr’s fiction, stuff happens. He never forgets that a reader is ultimately interested in this question: what happens next?
So blizzards come howling down from the mountains, a magician saws his young female assistant in half, a hunter fires arrow after arrow into a pack of half-starved coyotes, a mysterious dinner party reunites estranged lovers.
And there is magic.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about: We are mapmakers, all of us, tracing lines of memory across the spaces we enter. We embed memories everywhere; we inscribe a private and complicated diagram across the landscape; we plant root structures of smells and textures in the apartments of girlfriends and the station wagons of friends and in the living rooms of our parents.
Viewed from above, our memories might look like a satellite photo of Earth at night: a black half-sphere punctuated here and there by clusters of lights.
These are the population centers, the known territories, the illuminated districts. We live in them; we feel (mostly) safe; we drive to the grocery store and the pool hall without getting lost. Elsewhere the lights make slender ramifications into the dark, a few threads of flame burning here and there, five months in Kenya, a winter in New Zealand, a year in Rome. And then there are the dark areas: the uncharted realms, the borderlands, unsurveyed and unknown. Our Antarcticas, our Neptunes.