This week, I drew the Queen of Hearts which led me to “Getting Perspective”, one of the many short stories written by Katey Schultz in her book, Flashes of War. Before we get into the story, some background about the book.
Flashes of War was awarded 2013 Book of the Year in Literary Fiction by the Military Writers Society of America. The description on the back of the book seems to be a great summary:
“Illuminating the intimate, human faces of war, this unique series of short stories by award-winning author Katey Schultz questions the stereotypes of modern war by bearing witness to the shared struggles of all who are touched by it. Numerous characters-returning U.S. soldier and pragmatic jihadist, Afghan mother and listless American sister, courageous amputee and a ghost that cannot let go-appear in Flashes of War, which captures personal moments of fear, introspection, confusion, and valor in one collection spanning nations and perspectives.”
“Getting Perspective” is approximately 11 pages and is the story of Lillis, a widow (who doesn’t like to be considered a spider so she prefers single mom) raising her two girls after her husband, Ben (a.k.a Buns for reasons the reader is never told) was killed in Iraq.
Lillis is basically treading water, trying to find her way as a newly single mom and she still has 6 months to go before her husband’s ashes are returned to her. The story focuses on Lillis’ feelings in a condensed time period while awaiting the ashes.
Schultz isn’t wordy but she is descriptive enough that the reader feels like they can see through Lillis’ eyes. It nearly had me in tears as Schultz describes the “half ghost” feelings Lillis is experiencing after losing her one true love. Schultz doesn’t romanticize what Lillis is going through – she’s realistic and almost makes the reader wonder how she could be so accurate?
My favorite passage is also the one the lends itself the title of the story:
“Buns and I used to take that road when we wanted to get up high, fast. ‘Nothing like a view to keep things in perspective,’ he would say. ‘Listen to you,’ I’d say. ‘Should have been a philosopher, not a soldier.’ We got to the outcropping and I took it all in – the Black Mountains curving off the Blue Ridge, the Smokies in the near distance, miles more we couldn’t even see. This world is vast. Our longing is just a speck on a mountaintop.” (p. 61)
I think I’m going to enjoy the other short stories (the first 13 are part of this year’s Deal Me In project, I’m saving the rest for next year) in this book!