A few weeks ago I finished reading the O' Henry Prize stories 2009. Out of the twenty stories I will mention three as my favorite ones, and I will explain why I have chosen them. "Kind," by L.E Miller. "Icebergs," by Alistair Morgan, and "The House Behind a Weeping Cherry," by Ha Jin.
"Kind" is a story about a shy woman, Ann, who runs into Bianca, a neighbor from her past, on a flight from New York to Chicago. Bianca is the daughter of an artist she had been attracted to many years ago. The encounter with Bianca awakens many memories and we get to know the artist's wife through them, Edith, who had always been very kind to Ann as way of taking control of the abiguous situation that arose from the magnetism between her husband and Ann. The reason why I enjoyed this short story is that I was so absorbed by the plot, characters and setting that I felt I had read a full novel by the time I finished it. I also appreciated the nostalgic touch of it. This story was published by the Missouri Review.
"Icebergs" is about a lonely man who, after losing his wife to cancer, moves to a beautiful house by the sea. The couple had worked together to get it ready and his wife had made him promise that he would move there because she could not bear the thought of "strangers living in the house of their dreams." The house is located in South Africa in a neighbourhood of holiday homes. The MC is struggling with a bout of loneliness when a mysterious man about his same age moves next door. Their lives will become entwined when the main character's daughter, who is an artist, comes to visit her father. I enjoyed the suspense that moves the story forward and the well developed characters. Their loneliness, the realistic portray of the characters, the suprising twists were a great hook that kept me turning the pages. This story was published by The Paris Review.
The other wonderful story is "The House Behind a Weeping Cherry". It starts with Wanren, the main character, telling us that he is concerned about the landlady increasing his rent because his roommate has just moved out. In this same house there are three girls who work as prostitutes. Mrs Chen, the landlady, has something else in mind. She tells Wanren that she will not increase his rent as long as he drives the girls in the evenings to see their customers. He would be tipped for doing so. Wanren feels uneasy about it, but he ends up accepting the offer. Wanren is a young man who works as a sewer in a sweatshop in New York. He is an Asian immigrant and so are the three girls who make a living as prostitutes. Wanren ends up falling in love with one of them and wants to help her escape her dull existence. The complexity of the characters and the plot grabbed my attention. I also liked the end of the story. It was uplifting despite the grim circumstances. This story was published by The New Yorker.