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“Preparation”

I liked this story, but not as much as I liked “Crickets.” Like “Crickets,” “Preparation” seemed tidy and predictable. The narrator is always overshadowed by her friend, a girl who never knows of the narrator’s jealousy or feeling of inferiority. The beautiful friend gets the mutual love interest and seems happy to the last. After the friend dies, the narrator realizes that she had some secret pain and feels compassionate.

In “Preparation,” Butler uses the motif of Thuy’s breasts to convey this. The narrator brings them up often in recalling their shared youth in a way that reveals an kind of envious fixation, like when she says that at the flower stand “of course [Thuy’s] breasts even larger and more beautiful and Ly would look at them and then he would close his eyes softly in appreciation.” (149) The narrator is not necessarily jealous of the breasts themselves, but of the effect they allow Thuy to have on Ly. Then at the end, she discovers that one is missing, surgically removed probably due to breast cancer. This felt too predictable to me, this discovery and the narrator’s subsequent release of Thuy’s hair and forgiveness of her friend.

However, I believe that this is exactly what the sort of person we’ve learned the narrator is would do, so I don’t think the world of the story is flawed. Maybe the problem I have is that it isn’t flawed enough. The narrator is too much the long-suffering martyr, the “dear friend.” (150) This story didn’t seem to reveal anything new or interesting about human nature.

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