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Story # 16

Night Train To Frankfurt by Marisa Silver, from the November 20, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.

I didn't plan this, honestly.  I have this folder of short stories that I've pulled out of unread back issues of The New Yorker when they've been sitting around the apartment too long, and then occasionally I'll pull a story out at random and read it.  This one was on the top of the pile; just so happens to be by the same author as story #14 was.

On the basis of these two stories (which is not a strong basis to go on), I would say Marisa Silver tends to build her stories around illness, and how others' illness makes us analyze our own life.  Unlike "The Visitor," however, in this story the introspection makes sense and actually ... well, it doesn't move the story along, but it does dovetail nicely with the characters' present and adds a bit of dimension to their dynamic.

Helen is taking her mother Dorothy, who is fighting cancer, to an experimental clinic in Frankfurt, where they will remove her blood, boil it to kill off the pathogens, and then return it to her body. Helen is skeptical about the unorthodox procedure and cannot understand why her mother, always such a practical woman, has disregarded the chemo/radiation route in favor of this other method.  On the train to Frankfurt (after a long plane ride from the states), memories roil up for Helen.  Not all of them seem particularly pertinent to the story at hand, but several really factor in strongly enough that I was able to ignore what seemed like a digression with some of the others.

This is a much stronger story than "The Visitor," and makes me want to find a few more of Silver's stories to see if the themes I've noticed in these two stories carry through her work.



A Story A Day Keeps Boredom Away

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