Author: Cheryl Strayed
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Publish Date: September 1, 2020
Format: 32 pages, Kindle Edition
Goodread's prelude to the book
A genealogy test sparks a woman’s reflection on the two accounts of her life—the real one and the one she’s always told the world—in this poignant short story by Cheryl Strayed, the bestselling author of Wild. In 1964 teenage Geraldine Waters was sent away by her parents to an unwed mothers’ home, where she gave up her newborn for adoption. Ever since, she’s lived an alternative narrative. Decades later, it’s time for Geraldine to reconcile the telling of her life, to finally grieve, and to discover what happened to that part of her past that slipped away. Cheryl Strayed’s This Telling is part of Out of Line, an incisive collection of funny, enraging, and hopeful stories of women’s empowerment and escape. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single thought-provoking sitting.
She looked at her parents, clear-eyed and astonished like she understood exactly who she was for the very first time. A prisoner of her own body.
This short story packs all the elements of a perfect meal. You would start with the lavish appetizer platter and end on a mildly sweet chocolate dessert. The story revolves around an unexpected teenage pregnancy. All through the gestation period, Geraldine is taught to treat the baby growing inside her as a thing - something that does not belong to her. But Geraldine as the mother forms an unbreakable bond with the thing naming her Caroline. In the end, she is left with nothing but ancient memories of a pulse.
What would have otherwise been the story of a teenage mother with angst, developed into a fulfilling life for Geraldine. She lives her life freely to become independent, rediscover love on her own terms and start a family. However, the guilt of having given her baby up scarred her heart. She carried her secret long, fabricated lies, justified her inability to keep her child with webs of reason. But in truth, she abandoned her baby, wishing her a safe haven - one she was incapable to provide then.
The story slips in hints at the changing times implying a more accepting society, with Geraldine's parents protesting her to being a single teenage mom to her daughter Julie being in a queer relationship and conceiving her son through IVF. The narration is well-paced and the novella is an excellent example of a story that rightfully justifies its beginning and end. I absolutely recommend the book and give it a 4/5.
Read my review at Goodreads.