Fat Books & Thin Women

Story Sunday: Kelly Link’s “The Wrong Grave”

Sunday Stories is a new feature here at Fat Books & Thin Women. I love short stories, but in the past few years have found myself drifting away from them. To remind myself of why I love the form, I’ll be writing about a short story each Sunday. These will be stories by famous authors and by authors most of us have never heard of, by authors who have been dead for a hundred years and by ones who wrote a new story last weekend, by men, by women…well, you get the idea. The one thing all these stories will have in common is that you can read them online, for free; I’ll only write about stories that you can find on the internet. If you read a story, share your thoughts in the comments!

“The Wrong Grave” is a story from Kelly Link’s most recent collection, Pretty Monsters (2008). The book’s marketed as young adult, but the stories fall about where all of Link’s stories do, in a place between whatever definitions of “adult” and “young adult” writing we can come up with.

I love Link’s writing for how she never says too much. Her prose isn’t spare, exactly, but she chooses her details carefully and manages to describe things in unexpected ways that seem absolutely correct, always.

“The Wrong Grave” is about a boy, Miles, who hopes to be a poet and whose girlfriend, Bethany, has died in a car crash. At her funeral he places some poems in her casket:

He’d tucked the poems, handwritten, tear-stained and with cross-outs, under Bethany’s hands. Her fingers had felt like candles, fat and waxy and pleasantly cool, until you remembered that they were fingers.

See what I mean about her descriptions?

Bethany’s been in the ground for 11 months when Miles decides to dig her up and recover the poems. I’m not going to ruin this for you by quoting all the lines I want to, which is about half the story; but his preparations for grave digging, and his explanations for why he’s doing so, are hilarious in that they are so straight-forward and that Miles himself seems so guileless. But I’ll give one quote; Miles brings a map to the graveyard:

The map was also just in case, because he’d seen movies where the dead rose from their graves. You wanted to have all the exits marked in a situation like that.

Link often takes traditions or folk tales or widely held fears or beliefs and uses them in her stories, or builds her stories around them. It’s this sort of appropriation, if that’s the right word, that I love about her writing; and also how she manages to reveal so much of his characters by saying so little. Link reveals Miles, Bethany, and Bethany’s mother without ever appearing to tell us much about them, but it’s all there, just under the surface. There’s a kind of sadness and awesomeness to this story that I can’t describe.

She kicked the Monopoly box, which was a game that she’d always hated. That was one of the okay things about being dead, that nobody ever wanted to play Monopoly.

Read “The Wrong Grave” Now!

Visit Kelly Link’s website


1 Comment

[…] reason I started doing this feature was that I wanted to write about another one of her stories, “The Wrong Grave”, it is fair enough that I’m writing about another of her stories just two months later. […]

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