Author: Colum McCann
Type: Short story (Kindle single)
I read it: December 2015
What can you do, what can you feel, when someone who you thought depended on you disappears? In McCann’s story, a single mother is raising an adopted son in a remote Ireland house by the sea. The boy is deaf and on the cusp of manhood, and becomes empowered by the Christmas gift of a wetsuit.
When “every outcome was unwhisperable,” the mother, Rebecca, has nowhere to go but inward—a terrain as dangerous as the craggy rocks and devouring sea that the boy may have been drawn to. The story is about both the physical severing of the parent-child bond (Rebecca mournfully acknowledges that there is no good English word for a parent who has lost a child) and the more intangible separation of someone growing up and changing. Small moments reveal her son’s individuality, and the mother is stunned at “The sheer surprise of it. The unknowability.”
Apparently McCann has a short story collection coming out later this year. In either the opening or closing slot of that book I could imagine “Gone,” a fully contained piece that explores a common yet mysterious brand of human emotion.