“Hammer Attack”
by Han Ong
from the January 16, 2023 issue of The New Yorker

One of my favorite New Yorker discoveries of the past years is the work of Han Ong. He’d been publishing plays for decades before showing up in The New Yorker magazine in 2019. Since then we’ve gotten five of his stories, including today’s story “Hammer Attack.”

Even after reading the first paragraph I’m not sure what we’re getting here, and I like it!

Three Virgin Marys kept their baleful eyes on the back of Allen’s head. But more powers were needed—of clemency, of healing—so, to accompany the dolorous mothers, somebody had also taped to the wall behind Allen’s hospital bed half a dozen Jesuses (a few were laminated), the famous “Last Supper” painting, and a grave-looking figure who, Alice, one of Allen’s sisters, told Gina, was St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, of last hope. I said to Gina, The school I went to in Manila was called St. Jude. It was next to the church, also called St. Jude, where hundreds of people went for Mass. St. Jude is a very popular saint with the Filipinos, I added. Although, if Gina hadn’t asked and Alice hadn’t told her, I would not have been hip to this figure’s identity. It had been a long time since I’d given any thought to my boyhood, devoutness, obedience, my family.

I hope the first week of the new year has treated you well, and I hope you’ll let us know your thoughts on “Hammer Attack.”

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