⇒This story is beautiful and surprising. It’s very unconventional, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance. Alex McElroy’s “How I Came to Love Kelly Sand’s Sister,” published in the most recent issue of Wag’s Revue, begins as a fairly straightforward narrative about a young woman named Julie, whom the narrator, we know from the story’s title, comes to love. The story reads at first as a (very well-written) troubled-young-woman story. You know the kind: a beautiful but troubled young woman goes through life making various poor decisions, some of them sexual, of course, as she searches for meaning and connection in a world that seems to offer little of either.
Basically, Julie has car-sex with a random guy at some college party, gets knocked up, gives the child away in a closed adoption, then begins to harbor fantasies of reconnecting with the one-night-stand father and taking back her child and having a family. So she goes on a journey in search of the father. She takes a bus, naturally, and has very little money, naturally, and things don’t go as she hopes and she ends up making some more poor decisions out of desperation and/or existential numbness.
So the plot up to this point is quite straightforward. What’s especially interesting, though, is the narrative frame of this story, its unusual POV. It’s written in the first person, with the male narrator telling the events that transpire in Julie’s life in the manner of a third-person omniscient narrator. To wit: even though he is detached from Julie and her direct experience of the situations that occur, he nonetheless shall we say extrapolates a great deal about what is seen, felt, experienced, with the sort of narrative vividness one associates with a first-hand account. So it’s a highly imaginative (or psychic) third person account rendered in the first person.
If you want to be all workshoppy about this, you might say the author is breaking the rules of point of view. Indeed, he is, but this is not the error of a new writer inexperienced in handling a narrative POV. This is a very deliberate choice. Even though the narrator seems to infer and report things about Julie he couldn’t possibly know (e.g. what it’s like to get a c-section, etc) this projection demonstrates an infatuation that will prove very relevant to the story’s climax and resolution. I won’t spoil what happens or the manner in which the narrator’s story line converges with that of his protagonist, Julie, but I will say this: the story proves far more complex (psychologically, thematically, plot-wise) than we first suspect. Ultimately, and this is something we find among a lot of really good fiction, this story proves itself to be about far more than we initially think.
Yes, Julie spends a long time looking for her baby daddy and ultimately her baby, but these are kind of red herrings. In fact, she’s looking for something much less tangible, as is the narrator.
Check out this great story. You may or may not be able to predict how it ends, but either way, you’ll be pondering the why and how of this ending long after you’ve finished reading.