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Story Review: The Student’s Wife by Raymond Carver


Raymond Carver was our chosen short story writer for the month of March. Growing up in an Oregon logging town, he had a good vision of the people in the lower-middle class. His life, as a matter of fact, as a family man before age twenty is a good source of life lessons and experiences.

Carver’s stories are never didactic, which is why I like him. In fact, it is his subtleness that hammers home. Often, there is no particular plot to his stories, but readers should always pay close attention to his character’s actions and reactions. They bring into focus things we brush off as ordinary or irrelevant, things we might have neglected in the chaos of our everyday life.

THE STUDENT’S WIFE is that sort of story we may often regard as, “she is just having one of those moments.”  We see a restless housewife, Nan, who probably had too much time on her hands. Her mind is busy looking at a time when life was not difficult for their family. She is both nostalgic and wishful thinking. She is desperate to share that feeling with her husband -she wants him to validate their needs, and to share her pain. Meanwhile, her husband is not that keen on her needs. Mark, who is busy building his career, lost his focus on keeping a joyful and fulfilled marriage. He is, at present, in need of rest. Tomorrow is probably another taxing day, both with his day job and graduate class at night.

Most of all,” she said, “I’d like us both just to live a good honest life without having to worry about money and bills and things like that. You’re asleep,” she said.

Carver is never the one to talk about happy or perfect marriages. There is always a conflict involve. This story involves desperation and confinement. Nan’s subconscious thoughts speak desperately of how much she longs for a better life and ideal marriage. Sleep eludes her, knowing that another day is coming, yet her family is waking up to a life not any better from yesterday.

She laid her hand under her left breast and felt the beat of her heart rising into her fingers. She turned onto her stomach and began to cry, her head off the pillow, her mouth against the sheet. She cried.

“God.’ she said. “God, will you help us, God?” she said.

The inconclusive ending leaves us readers to make our own inferences. Is Nan’s desperate act of kneeling before God a beginning for hopefulness? Or a lamentation for an ending?

Collected in, Where I’m Calling From

Rating: 5/5 stars


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