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Fiction Fix: “Wilderness” by Jean Thompson

The goal of each installment of the Fiction Fix is to present you with a bite-sized capsule of fiction. Operating under the assumption that novels require the kind of time commitment you may not have, we scour literary magazines and new story collections to recommend one (just one!) short story that is most certainly worth your time.

Jean Thompson, who gets called “America’s Alice Munro” so often that she might as well print up business cards, has a new short story collection, Do Not Deny Me: Stories, out this week. The second story in the collection, “Wilderness,” was featured last year in One Story, a literary magazine after Fiction Fix’s own heart — the brainchild of Hannah Tinti, they send subscribers one complete, excellent, free-standing short story every three weeks.

“Wilderness” begins with a character named Anna riding a train through Indiana and reading a letter: “it was half a dozen sheets of paper, handwritten in thick soaking blue ink. No one but Ted had time to write long letters anymore. No one else had time to read them.” Anna goes on to weigh Ted’s letter and the invitation he extends in it as she makes her way to a Thanksgiving dinner.

Read the beginning of “Wilderness” and a Q&A with Thompson here, and then check out the whole book here.