Keith Taylor's Reviews > I Have the Answer

I Have the Answer by Kelly Fordon
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it was amazing

Kelly Fordon's wonderful new book. Too bad it has to come out at this time when the bookshops are closed! Here's the text of a radio review I did of it for Michigan Radio's "Stateside." Audio link below

I Have the Answer
by Kelly Fordon
Wayne State University Press, 2020

Several Michigan authors had the bad luck of publishing new books in the days or weeks just before the lockdown we find ourselves in right now. Bookstores are closed. Libraries are closed. All public events have been cancelled. The media is understandably preoccupied with events that might change history. New books have been forgotten for a while, which is a loss for their authors and for their readers too. Some of those books might be among the most enjoyable published this year.
For instance, take Kelly Fordon’s new collection of short stories called I Have the Answer. Most of us, particularly at this moment in time, are going to look at that title and smile at the irony of it. “Yeah, sure! Who has the answers for anything right now!” Fordon takes it that way too. Most of the protagonists in these stories are women, and women of a certain class--those college educated suburban women we hear so much about these days; the people who have come to decide elections.
For the most part the women in these stories, which usually take place in southeastern Michigan, are struggling with careers or have given them up because of the grueling demands of wife-ing and mothering. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t rewarding. Their husbands play golf and ignore their responsibilities. The women don’t have time to make the friends they would like to make. They see the women around them struggle with illness, depression and abandonment. Their children either ignore them or despise them. Life is not the easy suburban bliss they are too smart to expect but still secretly hoped for.
And what’s most amazing about Fordon’s accomplishment is that she reinvigorates this story. On the edges of despair it is even sometimes funny. For instance, the last story in I Have the Answer – wonderfully entitled “Why did I Ever Think this was a good Idea?” – begins like this:

Bridget Flanagan stood in the middle of what used to be her studio. A discordant sound (could it really be called music?) was coming from her son William’s room directly above her head. She could ask him to turn it down, but that would require interacting with him, possibly screaming at the top of her lungs. She couldn’t bear the thought, so she remained amid the thumping and screaming surrounded by shopping bags.

That choice is kind of sad, of course, but most of us who have had children can understand it. But I don’t think I’m perverse in seeing just a little bit of humor in the knowledge that the parent is almost helpless.

Don’t get me wrong. There is more to these sharply observed stories that are told in Fordon’s crystal clear prose. Amid all their struggles these very real characters find their moments of love and the possibilities of their hopes fulfilled, even if that dream is very faint, off on a distant horizon. These are stories of our time – or what was our time before the pandemic and what we hope might be our time again – and of our place and of the people we recognize living there.

Audio on the show for April 9, minute 27:30
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Finished Reading
April 9, 2020 – Shelved

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Kelly Thank you, Keith Taylor!

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