Adventures in Reading

Short Story: “Wish I Was Here” by Jackie Kay
August 31, 2008, 11:44 am
Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: , , ,

I have been putting off reading A Curious Singularity’s selection of “Wish I Was Here” by Jackie Kay for weeks now and I believe this has a lot to do with that I forgot to print out a copy of the story and instead had to read it on my laptop. Call me crazy, but if I can’t write in the margins or stick Post-Its all over it, I feel like I’m losing something in the reading experience.

“Wish I Was Here” is the story of Paula and Claudette. Two middle-aged women, single for years, who vacation together until Claudette meets her “New Lover” Jan. Paula now finds herself as the third wheel and realizes that not only can she not afford the new vacation destination, but that she’s not even particularly wanted there. This situation is further exacerbated as Paula apparently has some romantic attachments to Claudette. To surprise the couple, Paula shows up early and sneaks into Claudette and Jan’s hotel.

There are a lot of references to Brontë’s Villette, which I haven’t read, but which possibly adds layers of complexity I’m missing out on. Initially I was not particularly enjoying the story though by the end of it I had cracked a smile or two. Mostly though, Paula becomes increasingly drunk as she careens into the embarrassing climax of the story.

I found Kay’s story reminiscent of Elizabeth Berg’s recent short story collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, making Kay’s (as well as Berg’s stories) “Wish I Was Here” a prototype affiliated with a form of female mid-life crisis, which is often represented as a sexual, romantic, and food related inner conflict. With “Wish I Was Here,” Kay leads the reader to the point of crisis where Paula begins her mantra of “‘You are not going to ruin Claudette’s holiday,’” which is exactly what is going to happen.

More often than not, I have no need or real interest in identifying with a character. I can enjoy a story just as much, if not more, even if I feel detached from the character. But I must say Paula is a particular character I feel little towards and have less interest in. If I want a female mid-life crisis, I’ll stick with Woody Allen’s Another Woman. However, I did find the internal dialog to be thoughtful and well-written and would be interested in reading more by Jackie Kay.

Conclusion: Added Jackie Kay to my Bookmooch Wishlist.


I really need to get back to posting at ACS. I’m surprised they haven’t kicked me out yet.

Sounds like an interesting story, though. Maybe I’ll actually post on it.

Comment by Brandon

Brandon: Definitely start posting again – it’s getting a bit lonely over there. It was a good story, definitely worth a read.

Comment by bookchronicle

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