Mini Review #3 Her Bright Future

Magazine: Inlandia Journal
Issue: Volume II Issue II, Summer 2012
Title: Her Bright Future by Ellen Hecht

“Somehow, that little glimpse in the mirror in the morning seemed to give her the kind of hope that everyone in her family, and those like them, had buried somewhere along the dusty roadside between Oklahoma and where they ran out of gas.”

      This story has rhythm and voice, smooth and then gritty in all of the right places. Very quickly you imagine yourself in 1920’s Barstow, amongst the sharecroppers and dust. People living in Oklahoma looking for a better life had packed up their cars and driven to California, only to find that not much had changed.
      Just as those leaving the Midwest thought moving to California would change their fortunes, Natalie Hutchens believes her beauty will somehow take her away from Barstow and her job at the fruit stand. Natalie stands out amongst her family because of her physical appearance, and this gives her hope, but it is a passive hope. This is a woman waiting, dreaming, but not acting. She fantasizes that a man in a nice car who said a few flattering words to her will return and bring her to Hollywood where she will become a silent movie actress. The rest of the world brings things to her, but she never ventures out of Barstow to get things for herself. When she realizes that the man she saw at the gas station is a movie star, and soon to be married, she behaves as though he was her one last hope. In one of the best lines of the story: “Natalie smeared the lipstick from her lips with the back of her hand, got into bed and turned her face to the wall.”
      I’m reminded of my favorite line in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, who writes so honestly and viscerally about hope. In a scene where Lola’s mother demands that she wear a wig to cover her shaved head, Lola takes the wig and lights it on fire and “it went up in a flash, like gasoline, like a stupid hope.” To anyone else it was just an instance of disobedience that results in a ruined wig, but for them it is a breaking point.
      If there is anything lacking in this story I would say it is specificity. The strangers in the roadster are “glamorous” and life is described as “hard” and “brutal”. I think there could be more specific details about how life was hard working at the fruit stand, and how it became even more unbearable after she caught a glimpse of what she’d been missing. It would give the story more texture, helping it to transcend the cliché of the slow moving town in the middle of nowhere— and I’d love to hear the conversation between the beautiful man and woman in the slick car at the gas station, as Natalie heard it, and the few flattering lines that she held so tightly to.

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One response to “Mini Review #3 Her Bright Future”

  1. Ellen Hecht says:

    I just stumbled upon the review of “Her Bright Future.” I’m so pleased someone took the time!
    The reviewer wrote she would have liked to have read more details.
    I believe fewer words are called for to provide a tautness to illustrate the pared down existence of a life of poverty and hopelessness.
    In the case of a short story such as this, where the writer must of necessity balance on a wire between attempting to convey the slow pace of life in that place and during that era, (the heat and the fact that there was nothing to do) and the constraints that a short story must observe for brevity, the writer must choose where the reader will be required to fill in with her / his imagination.
    I must say I am very flattered that this reader took the time to read, think about and offer feedback on this little piece.
    Ellen Hecht

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