Glimmer Train chose a loss of a loved one as the central theme for this issue, at least for the first two stories. No use hiding that fact in a spoiler tag, I think. Unlike “Number 41,” however, “Shadehill” eases into the death. At first, the story appears to be a somewhat boring coming-of-age tale about a kid’s extended family, in a cabin overlooking a lake from its cliff. “Every year the cliff receded a few inches, sometimes more than a foot… threatening to one day swallow the cabin itself,” (Hitz, 30) says the narrator. The dissolution of this family’s sense of peace is not as gradual as that, for tragedy opens up new wounds and threatens to self-perpetuate.
Just so we’re clear and spoiled going forward, the victim of “Shadehill”’s tragedy is named Ophelia, and she goes the same way as her Shakespearian namesake (though not intentionally, I believe). This Ophelia’s more independent and daring than the Ophelia of Hamlet, but both characters inspire insanity and despair in their family. Little gets held back. That’s where this story succeeds— it is uncompromising in its depiction of grief. Even the tale’s negatives, like a confusingly worded climax and the cabin-on-a-cliff metaphor that goes nowhere, only seem to highlight the senselessness of calamity. I’m not sure I’ll remember the characters or the implied backstories in “Shadehill,” but I’ll remember the picture it painted.
Mark Hitz has “Shadehill” as his first published work— not much can be found about him online besides his writing awards and a few other successes. If you think Glimmer Train‘s usual offerings are distant and esoteric, this story might change your mind.
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