"Ash" by Roddy Doyle originally published in the May 24, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.
I haven’t read Roddy Doyle before, though I have tried to read a short story or two. This is the first one I made it through, and I have to say it is probably because it was so short. The writing is fine. There are moments I felt I was getting in to it, for a few lines, but I just never got into it.
The story itself is old but good: a marriage is breaking up. In this case, the stories opening lines are said by the wife: “We’ll still be friends, she said.” She then goes off, coming home a few times in the first days, but then disappearing for a while. Meanwhile, the husband takes care of his two daughters (“Where’s Mammy?” “Work.” “Poor Mammy.” “Yeah.”) and talks to his brother about how to cope.
I was already not impressed with the story when the ending came along, an ending that pulled meaning from the Icelandic volcanic eruption. That made me start to wonder just how much time had been spent preparing this story for publication.