I’m unable to tell how valuable are the stories of Jamie Quatro that are heavily influenced by the literary avant garde.
But it’s different with a story like “Better to Lose An Eye,” whose conventional narrative shows, I believe, artistic merit. Quatro’s fiction is set in the American South and has its share of Southern Christians. The characters in “Eye” are a young girl, her quadriplegic mother and her grandmother, Nona; and we learn that the mother once lived a pretty fast life until a former boyfriend caused her paralysis by shooting her. The one born-again person in the story, the industrious Nona, nevertheless proves insensitive to the mother’s condition—to me, a rather cheap shot from Quatro. It is an otherwise effective story.
More satisfying is another non-avant garde tale called “The Anointing” (which, like the story above, is found in the 2013 collection, I Want to Show You More). Mitch, the suburban husband of Diane, falls into a deep depression, refusing to leave his bed. Diane is incessantly concerned. It can’t be helped that her Christian faith begins “waning,” yet she freely allows her pastor and five church elders to come to the house and anoint Mitch with oil in the name of the Lord. But there is no healing, and a problem with trust involving one of Diane’s two children crops up as well. A possible truth in the story is that Diane is anointed to love her family, which she does fiercely. Part of the last sentence reads, “She would do anything to save them,” and she loves them even as she suffers. In point of fact, she loves them in a Christ-like manner.
“The Anointing” is a smoothly, unerringly written 12-page gem—and not the only good short story Jamie Quatro has purveyed. Read “Georgia the Whole Time” too.