“The Shape of a Teardrop”
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
from the March 15, 2021 issue of The New Yorker
It’s been a couple of years since we last got a new T. Coraghessan Boyle story in The New Yorker. The last was “Asleep at the Wheel,” which showed up in the February 11, 2019 issue of the magazine. When it was published I wrote exactly what I first wrote when I sat to start this post: “Even though I’ve only loved a few of them, I’m always excited when I see that Boyle has a new story in The New Yorker. His ability to carry me from start to finish with an exciting voice is something I always enjoy even if the story itself doesn’t speak to me.” Well, I’m delighted to say: here we go again!
It looks like “The Shape of a Teardrop” will take us to a fraught parent-child relationship. First, the magazine put this as the story’s blurb:
What I really wanted to sue them for was giving birth to me in the first place.
And then we also have this opening section:
I’m not going anywhere. They can come in with police dogs and fire hoses and I’ll cling to the woodwork till I’m stripped to the bone. They’d like that, wouldn’t they, their one and only child, who never asked to be born in the first place, reduced to an artifact in his own room in the only home he’s ever known.
This story is divided into thirteen sections, each with a title, almost like a chapter title: “Police Dogs and Fire Hoses,” “Every Advantage,” “The Document in Question,” etc. They go back and forth between the child — who is not a child anymore — and the parents. “Every Advantage,” for example, is from the parents and begins:
He had every advantage. We loved him, we still love him, our only child, who came to us as the sweetest and truest blessing from God when I was forty-one and so empty inside I was staring into the void in my every waking moment and in my dreams, too, which used to be full of wonder but had turned so rancid I could feel my brain rotting right there on the pillow while Doug snored the night away — because he’d given up, he really had, worn out from working overtime so we could afford the in-vitro treatments, which were just money down the drain, because nothing ever came of them except heartache.
So Boyle sets up these warring factions: the bitter son on the one side, upset he is no longer on the family plan, and on the other the mom and dad, who just served their son an eviction notice.
I’ll share my thoughts below once I’m done reading the story, which I have ready to go over lunch! I hope you’ll let us know your thoughts as well!