"Blue Roses" by Frances Hwang Originally published in the November 1, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.
I’ve put off writing about this story long enough. Sometimes the hardest things to write about are the things I neither hate nore like, those pieces that are fine, neither remarkable or terrible. This is such a piece.
“Blue Roses” is an interesting story about an older woman and her conflicts with her grown children and her elderly friend. When the story begins, a daughter has invited her mother (our narrator) to Christmas dinner. The mother asks if she could bring along her friend who is recently widowed. When the daughter hesitates, saying she’s not really their friend, the mother is furious and refuses to go to Christmas dinner or to speak to this daughter again.
On the other hand, the elderly friend is a bit of a pain. High-mannered, this friend has high expectations of servitude, which her husband always seemed to meet.
The voice is believable, the mother being angry, sometimes unreasonably vindictive, while at the same time having a desire to help this unreasonable friend.
Alas, as much as I admired Hwang’s premise and the skill with which she tells this complicated story, it never grabbed on to me. Nevertheless, it is well written and well structured, a decent if not great story.