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Monday, May 20, 2013

Reader's Diary #1004- Binnie Brennan: Absolution

If the image to the left conjures up emotions or memories beyond keeping your pants up, the impact of the first paragraph in Binnie Brennan's "Absolution" will undoubtedly be even greater for you than it was for me. Fortunate as I was to have avoided corporal punishment in my youth, I still found the opening to this story powerful and sickening and it certainly did the job of setting the mood for what was to follow.

"Absolution" is basically the coming-to-terms of four brothers with their strict, cold, religious, and abusive upbringing. I've been a brother but haven't had a brother, so I cannot say for sure that Brennan "got it right" but it at the very least felt authentic.

The ramifications for the brothers' harsh upbringing are as you would expect. Even the brothers who found success in some spheres of life (marriage, careers) still suffer from the legacy of their shared childhood. There's at least some sense of relief that at least they have been loyal to each other, but at several points even that threatens to break under the strain on a weak foundation.

At first the only issue I had with the story was the narrator's mother. I thought that while Brennan clearly wished for her to be a significant character, so much attention was put on the brothers and even their father, that her small part seemed to fade into the background and I didn't quite get it. However, when I went  back to read the final scene again, I finally appreciated the understated importance of the character (or at least one of her actions).

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

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