Short Story Review: Pa's Darling by Louis Auchincloss

After cracking the spine of the 2007 edition of "The Best American Short Stories," the first story to greet me, after two introductions by the editors, was Pa's Darling by Louis Auchincloss. It was a thankfully brief 13 pages of well-written, if unmoving, narrative. Stopping short of being too critical, because the story does not deserve a heaping load of criticism, all that can be said is that the story lacks the emotional or societal scope that makes a short story really cling to you.

Louis Auchincloss has just the right amount of average and pretentious in her writing style to reach a wide audience with the right story. Unfortunately, this was not it. The characters were okay. The story was okay and the setting was, well, practically non-existent. She gave herself a wonderful opportunity by setting her tale between the 30s and the 60s. The only moving cultural reference to this tumultuous era is the death of the narrator's husband in World War II, which is very underplayed.

The title character, who was not as darling as Pa liked to tell everyone she was, is essentially complaining about her father and her two husbands. She even gets a dig at her mother. That is the beginning, middle and end. There is a little precedence for it. However, her complaints are hardly fetching. There is nothing about her story that hits the reader hard. Perhaps that is simply what I want from a short story -- thought-provoking brevity. I want to be moved or made to ponder concepts familiar or unfamiliar to me. Pa's Darling could not do that with its unfortunate lack of climax or purpose. There is a complete lack of tangible climax, for the reader and the narrator's father.

With all of the above being said, Pa's Darling was simply not for me. Perhaps it would be better for someone who can relate to a the ponderings of a rich girl who is not content with the level of her father's love, the just barely sordid secrets of her mother and the shortcomings of her two hard-working and polite husbands. For me, I will take a more powerful, earthy and realistic antagonist than a pompous, but outwardly loving father any day. As for the protagonist, I would hardly call an ungrateful rich girl that.

Shelly Barclay

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