Free Fruit for Young Widows

He made it through the camps. He walks, he breathes, and he was very close to making it out of Europe alive. But they killed him. After the war, we still lost people. They killed what was left of him in the end.

Nathan Englander’s Free Fruit for Young Widows is more parable than story, sketching two acts of brutal self-preservation–one at the end of World War II, one during the Suez Crisis–and the very different reactions of two men. The characters, though, are more fully realized than is typical of a parable, and the result is a haunting story that brings abstract moral arguments down to concrete human terms.

Englander’s story would be memorable in any context, but especially so after a series of New Yorker stories that haven’t lived up to the standards of the magazine. (Was anyone else deeply disappointed by Doctorow’s Edgemont Drive, which was stilted, predictable, and not up to the standards of an undergraduate writing class? Were all the fiction editors on vacation that week?) I hope it’s an idicator of a better summer ahead.

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