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Thursday, May 9, 2024

"Kitsune" by Devon Bohn

Appeared in Writers of the Future 39



Women in New Mexico are obsessed with foxes. A young woman is running a shop and contemplates the changes in her world.

This is a lit light story of young women in search of their identity.

Sweet, a little sad, simple.


Women become foxes to get away from bad men.

Lit light is the lack of focus on developing a major speculative conceit. Nothing wrong with that. This just means we should expect to read deeper psychological insight into the characters.

The strength of the tale is two-fold: 1) an awareness of the pleasures of words (not heavy handed in its sound albeit a bit repetitious) and 2) its capturing the indecision and fear of the future that most new adults experience, trying to find their way in the world. Perhaps it captures the lost feeling of a generation--at least the feeling of a younger female side, if not others. A lot of young adults today are expressing discouragement about the opposite sex--which is as it's always been, but the barriers now seem insurmountable to some--and we see one-half of that equation in this tale.

There's a moment where the mother contacts her daughter and the daughter spins the mother's comment into something negative, possibly unintended. There's not enough evidence not to accept the mother's comment at face value. So is the daughter an unreliable narrator? Then there's the roommate who has been waiting too long to be proposed to and is eager--perhaps foolishly too eager--that tonight's the night, and the narrator leads us to believe he never will because he's that kind of slime.

Except he does ask the roommate to marry him. And except she turns him down. And this spear-carrying character, about whom we know nothing, has slapped her for rejected him. Then there's a cab driver whom we're supposed to see as a lecher or criminal. But again we don't get enough insight into this character either. Are all men bad in this universe? Even though we never get evidence of James's (or anyone else's) badness, she seems to look on him as suspect as well not only refuses to answer his calls, but also flees from him. Why? We don't have enough textual evidence to judge these men.

The character changes are abrupt, sharp left turns that are too easily packaged. It isn't clear that the story or the narrator is aware of missing the other side of the people equation. While there's nothing wrong with flawed perception, the text needs to clue us in to the character's lack of awareness.

Maybe it does. Maybe we are meant to discount everything the character perceives. But then what is the story? That everyone deserves their day in court? That's not in the text. But maybe it's just the opening of a larger work of psychological self-discovery.

Still, the story has things to appreciate. With an increased focus on character or speculative conceit, this may be a decent leap into a fine career.

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