What follows is a post from one of our current students, Jodie Boast, about how structured reading can help the creativity flow, giving us ideas, inspiration and clues as to narrative design. The post can be seen in all its full glory here: https://somethingtoboastabout.com/2016/10/14/a-small-good-thing-review/
Throughout my writing journey, I have found that Raymond Carver is one of my favourite authors. His writing and short stories are usually uplifting and quite entertaining. They have meaning and are very easy to read.
This particular reading: A Small Good Thing– was a brilliant, yet sad, read. I had recently had some bad news regarding some distant friends and this story really was emotionally touching for me. I thought it was brilliantly thought out and the contrast between the family at the beginning to the way the sit and eat together- but not as you imagined at first… I was really happy I came across this short story for my ‘Writing Fiction Workshop’ module. It really establishes a brilliant narrative- which gave me inspiration to creative a narrative structure for my own story.
The short story is a very simple structure- the plot is very basic: mother buys cake, boy gets hit by car, a phone call is made followed by them all dining together. I liked how the story really took a different turn on the effect of someone’s child being gone. I liked how the author, Carver, really portrayed other characters to be part of the crime. As the ‘driver put the car into gear and drove away’, (pg 309) we don’t actually know who the driver was. Carver presents other characters as the driver or hints that they could be. Was it the baker? The person who actually initiates the notion that bad things happen in life, and sometimes people have their own things going on. The baker didn’t know what had happened, as he continues to ‘haunt’ and pester the family about the ‘Scotty’ cake that they didn’t pick up for their dead child’s birthday. This suggest that before we know he didn’t know himself, that he could have been the driver- however we learn that he isn’t when he comforts the parents at the end.
After close reading, I soon came up with the idea that maybe the doctor was the killer. As the child has clearly entered a coma, the doctor refuses to call him that. He tells the parents that it cannot be a coma and that he will wake up. He is very persistent in telling them this and not telling them much about what is going on with their son. He conducts numerous tests on their son, but he still keeps them in the dark. This suggests that he was the one who ran the child over, and assumed he would be okay, which would surprise him when he is in hospital, unable to wake up.
I feel that Carver really gained an emotional response with this piece reflecting on the feelings of both the mother and father. The writer even focuses on the baker and how he reacts to the people not picking up the phone to how he reacts when he finds out about their child. I really think Carver used emotive language to draw you in, so you cannot put it down.
Overall, this is a brilliant short story with a very emotional feel. I was sad and intrigued when reading it, but it was good to get closure for the mother. Would definitely recommend this short, quick, interesting short story… or anything by Raymond Carver!