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Snapshot post-mortem

For us, when we were in the company of family, Roofer’s had become untellable.

The point of view in Stephanie Vaughn’s “The Battle of Fallen Timbers” slips somewhat from the traditional, limited structure of a first person narrator to look at the family as a whole, and at the grandmother (on page 146, the narrator says:”the year that Uncle Roofer died my grandmother… was trying to figure out whether she could live alone with a bad hip,” then on 147 imagines her grandmother’s bus trip: “from time to time, she touched the big purse in her lap and opened it to see if the marshmallow had been squashed during the trip”). The story appears to be looking at how the members of a family deal with the death of one of their own. Details like how, in the car after the funeral, everyone listened to the father talk about the geological history of the area instead of sharing memories of the deceased or something like that, but the conversation eventually brought up something that brought Roofer to mind feel real and compelling. People don’t talk about their grief in groups. They argue about politics or scorn road design.

But if this is what the story is doing, why tell it in first person? Vaughn could plumb the emotional state of each character more effectively in third person. Life isn’t like that though – all we see of another person’s grief is through what he does and says. First person here helps maintain that distance.

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