“The Hollow Children”
by Louise Erdrich
from the November 28, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

If I were voting for the next Nobel Prize in Literature, my vote would go to Louise Erdrich. I think her books are fascinating, beautifully written, and vital. I’m so excited we have a new story from her this week. I wondered if it was an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, and the answer is: maybe. From the interview with Deborah Treisman, Treisman says that the story “may become part of a novel you’re working on. How does it connect with the rest of the book, if so?” Erdrich’s response? “I have no idea.” Ha!

“The Hollow Children” is very short, so I’ll definitely be getting to it today. From the interview, it appears to take place on a school bus caught in a severe blizzard in 1923. Here is the opening short section:

At the Tabor Bar, around beer No. 4, the men sometimes got into history farming, trading stories of their antecedents’ exploits and agonies. In the long ago, wheat prices had plunged and most of the bonanza farms had broken up. That was when their great-greats had bought the land. The men talked about old plagues, old equipment, old swaps of ownership, crops, land, and dire weather. John Pavlecky’s great-grandmother, at the age of nine, had survived the blizzard of 1923 by burrowing into a nearby haystack when the school bus didn’t show up. Diz remembered his grandfather telling stories about an Uncle Ivek, who had also endured that blizzard, which was particularly lethal because it happened on a misty and mild April day. Around eight that morning, the bus had been almost full of children and headed toward the school, when out of the northwest a wind of sixty miles per hour had dropped the temperature instantly to minus twenty and filled the air with a blistering-cold curtain of powder. Such a snow could blind your eyes and scour the features off your face.

Ivek was a farmer, a part-time schoolteacher, and one of the bus drivers. He was taking his turn behind the wheel. In the back of a school notebook, not long after the blizzard, he wrote about what happened.

Have a wonderful week! If you’re so inclined, please share your thoughts on the story or on Erdrich’s work in general below in the comments.

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