“Chaunt”
by Joy Williams
from the December 10, 2018 issue of The New Yorker

I love Joy Williams, and I don’t think she’s read nearly as much as she should be. In fact, I don’t read her nearly as much as I should. Her work is unsettling and strange, sometimes to the point where it feels like the story is unraveling with a character’s stability. They are always unpredictable.

I mean, what on earth will we get in a story called “Chaunt”? I don’t know, but I love what we get in the first few paragraphs:

The building was called the Dove. Or Dove. She’s out there at Dove, people might say if they wanted to bother. It was eleven stories with a multitude of single rooms, very much like a dovecote, or, as everyone eventually suggested, a columbarium. It was in a windy desert basin with a wonderful view of distant mountains. If you felt that the Dove was the place for you, you gave them all your money and you would be cared for there until the day you died. Should you choose to leave before then, they still kept all your money. Leaving was a poor option and hardly anyone did it.

When the boys died and after she had buried the one who was hers, she moved to Dove. Many days passed — she would be the last to know how many — before anyone spoke to her.

This opening is very intriguing to me. I love that Williams introduces the world without answering so many of the main questions: like, who is this woman and what on earth happened to her? And while Dove sounds like a nice option for those wanting to check out, I’m sensing more than a little bit of darkness in those doors.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

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