After reading The Gathering, I was eager to read more work by Anne Enright. So when the 21st Fiction Yahoo group chose Enright’s short story Natalie to read and discuss, I was pleased. I read this story on-line at the New Yorker.
Natalie is narrated by an unnamed teenage protagonist who is laying in bed ruminating on her relationship with her boyfriend (also unnamed), Natalie, Natalie’s boyfriend Billy, and Billy’s mother Mrs. Casey. We learn that the narrator and Natalie have a psuedo-friendship of sorts and that Billy’s mother has ovarian cancer.
Although the title suggests this will be a story about Natalie, instead Natalie becomes the conduit for the narrator to reach a conclusion about life and death, and human connections. Natalie’s view of the world is that people are unconnected - they live or die independent of their relationships with each other. The narrator has a more idealistic view of the world. She resists the idea of ultimately being alone and searches for connections with others. Eventually, Natalies influence seems to shift the narrator’s viewpoint:
We are not connected. Because this is what Natalie is saying, isn’t it? That we are alone. -From Natalie-
Enright is skilled at capturing the voice of her narrator and convincing the reader we are indeed inside the head of a teenager. Despite her adept writing, Enright’s short story did not resonate with me. In the end, I felt a complete disconnect with the characters. Given the underlying theme of the story, perhaps this was Enright’s intention…but it didn’t work for me.
I must admit to needing help to work this short story out…and for that I thank the very astute readers at the 21st Fiction Yahoo group. I’d recommend the story as a thought provoking read which will stimulate group discussion. But, if you are just looking for an enjoyable short story, you could probably skip this one.