Fat Books & Thin Women


Story Sundays: Aryn Kyle’s “Foaling Season”

Story Sundays is a weekly feature at Fat Books & Thin Women. Each Sunday I write about a short story available online. If you read the story, add your thoughts in the comments!

Aryn Kyle’s 2004 “Foaling Season” is a beautiful story about loss and learning to live with sorrow and the different ways of loving people. There are all these things going on, some of which are hinted at more than they are explored: a girl drowns in a canal, the narrator’s sister runs away to marry a bronc rider, her father tries to keep the family farm going by charging the sort of rich and eminently dislikable girl who is always, always, briefly interested in horses, to work at the farm. Also, it’s foaling season, and he’s looking to sell the horse that used to belong to Alice’s sister.

There’s some humor to this story, so don’t take my description to mean that in this corner we have another dull, overwritten story about how something-or-other that didn’t happen to the narrator had a deep and lasting impact on her life. Kyle captures this whole world so well, the working horse farm and the idea of rodeos, and it brought back my childhood and, well, weekends spent mucking out stalls so that I could get credit for riding lessons (or something, I forget now) and Saturday nights at the rodeo started by my great-aunt’s ex-husband and now run by his family. (Seriously, it’s in NJ: the longest-running weekly rodeo in the United States, Cowtown Rodeo.) Like, Alice’s sister has eloped with a guy from the rodeo, which we don’t hear a lot about except:

My father said that Jerry would break his spine riding broncs, and Nona would spend the rest of her life pushing him around in a wheelchair and holding a cup for him to drool into.

I don’t think there’s a much better way of getting the father’s reaction to his daughter’s marriage.

There’s a lot on Polly, a classmate of the narrator’s who falls into a canal and drowns; they were working on a school project, a lantern, together, and the way the narrator thinks about how she’ll be drawn into the sorrow of Polly’s family gets uncomfortably close at the weird desire people can have (especially the younger versions of ourselves) to become a part of someone else’s drama and grief.

Mr. McClusky told me that it would be a nice gesture to give the lantern to Polly’s mother, and after school I practiced what I might say when I rang Polly’s doorbell. I had barely known Polly and had never met her mother, but such a heartfelt gesture would probably make her cry. Maybe she would ask me to stay and visit. She would make me tea and feed me gingersnaps while she ran her fingers through my hair. “Come back anytime,” she would say. “Stay the night if you want.”

A few years after writing this story, Kyle expanded it into the first chapter to her debut novel, The God of Animals, which was published in 2007 and apparently an international bestseller and a book I never heard of before reading “Foaling Season.” I am now so psyched to read it when I get back to the States. This story doesn’t in any way feel incomplete or lacking, but I’m curious and excited to see how Kyle expands on some of the stories that are only briefly a part of this one.

Read “Foaling Season”

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2 Comments

I think I would like to read this novel too. Though it seems like it’s complete enough, I think more would, in this case, be better. I enjoyed it, but it seemed to only start drawing me in – it would take more for me to really be engrossed.

Comment by Jennifer Marcketta

i always have this weird sort of reaction to stories that are extracts from novels or that are later turned into novels (which is weird if only because i sometimes like to complete a story and years later go back to rewrite it or play with it from a different view even if it got published or whatever), so i’m glad that i went into this story without knowing that it’s now part of a novel. like you said, the story seemed complete to me, but i wonder if my view of that would have changed if i’d known beforehand that it later became part of a novel. would i have been disappointed in the things that weren’t explored, or would my reading of it have been the same?

Comment by Ellen Rhudy




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