Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Danielle McLaughlin's "In the Act of Falling" was originally published in the September 7, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

September 7, 2015 CoverLast September McLaughlin’s “The Dinosaurs on Other Planets” was her first story to appear in The New Yorker. It sparked a nice discussion. Let’s see if the same thing happens this time around with “In the Act of Falling.”

Please leave any comments you have about the story, McLaughlin, or anything related.

To kick things off, here are Adrienne’s thoughts:

“In the Act of Falling” is a story of isolation, loneliness, and the threat of defeat. Here you will find no new revelations of the effect of the economy on families nor will you find a tale that is new — never been written.

Times become hard, quite suddenly, and Bill languishes at home, too depressed to find work. He keeps a sort of company with his son, Finn, suspended from school for a fight, and together they descend into their own brand of survival. The protagonist — wife, mother, bread-winner — unnamed, carries her own miseries and concerns, apart from what her small family struggles with.

There are a lady missionary, dead birds, and a homeless man propelling the internal story of the woman into action. Despite feeling removed and alone from her son and husband, the woman is still utterly connected to them. She can remember laughter, pride, and love.

Danielle McLaughlin’s writing voice is lyrical, somewhat reminiscent of 19th-century English literature. Her tone creates, with mastery, images with resonance and power. There are no fits-and-starts when reading this piece — it flows until the end bringing us to a brink. We are left with a wisp — an idea — that lingers, like the noise left by a flock of birds, suddenly taking off in flight.

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By |2015-09-03T17:55:10-04:00August 31st, 2015|Categories: Danielle McLaughlin, New Yorker Fiction|Tags: |4 Comments


  1. Greg September 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Thank you Adrienne for your appreciation of this story. I agree wholeheartedly about the lyrical flow throughout this piece!

    I personally enjoyed how the author shared the inner thoughts of the protagonist. We got to experience the enormous challenge of being a mother to a misbehaving son, a wife to an unemployed passive husband, and working in a poisoned environment.

    I now look forward to what the other regulars in this space think!

  2. Sean H September 10, 2015 at 6:17 am

    I thought this was a step up from McLaughlin’s previous New Yorker effort from last year, “The Dinosaurs on Other Planets.” That story had a nice central image but a bit too much mishegas chaotically orbiting it. This one is more pared down and well-plotted and there’s clearly something at stake. It’s also quite adept at creating a three-dimensional world. The protagonist almost feels more like the lead character in a movie (and there is that recurring Angelina Jolie trope). She even gets to act out a “concerned mom amidst rising tensions as to the whereabouts of her missing child” scene. You can almost here the strings picking up their tempo and volume in the background, though I thought the trip-and-fall and literal skinned knee was a bit cliche; I like how she hides it at the end though, characters confronting shame is good stuff.
    I almost wish that things hadn’t concluded so bucolically, because the apocalyptic themes were present in my reading even before I perused the author’s comments about the piece over on the website. Perhaps the birds should have fallen en masse from the sky after all? That said, the homeless guy piercing the dead dog’s stomach over and over again was a good splash of grotesquerie and replacing the dog with her murdered son may have been a bit too macabre for the New Yorker, though if pushed I would say the author does need to go a bit darker. Someone should point her towards Harry Crews and/or Sarah Kane, maybe a dash of Joyce Carol Oates.
    Right now there’s still some green and an air of the savant about McLaughlin, reminiscent a bit of Tea Obreht, but applied to short stories instead of a novel. She is also a late-to-writing gal, kiting in from another profession, and her work reminds me of John Lanchester’s quite a bit in that regard. Something about the way she renders these large tableaus of characters and vistas. So while this piece isn’t as self-assured as, say, the Joy Williams that follows it, it wears its weird well. Clean prose, uses dialogue to a purpose, characterizes its people efficiently.

  3. Greg September 12, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Thank you Sean for your extra long review. You have really opened up many aspects to me! Much appreciated…..

  4. Rosalind September 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Too much mishegas, thanks Sean for your comments.

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