"She who had traveled widely, who had never tried to bring attention to herself, to disrupt anyone around her with loud laughter or disrespect, had put too much pressure on a young boy. For shells."

A struggle I face when reading fiction critically–as well as when writing it myself–is where (and if) to draw the line between necessary drama and forced drama. For Vida, exploring a story of a woman's grief, questing how the life shared with her late husband was marred by their complicated relationships with their kids, I can see narrative logic in leading her to a friendship with the young boy Ahmet. What I don't entirely find compelling is leading him quickly to his death–a death for which Yvonne is seemingly complicit. Is this drama necessary or is it forced?

Ahmet's death articulates for Yvonne all of her greatest fears and frustrations. It forces her to confront the guilt, anger, loss, and self-blame she feels around the quality of life the members of her family live (her daughters drug addiction, her son's coldness, her husband's way of dealing with both). The entire novel, in a way, leads to this crisis point, and the novel's denouement is entirely dependent upon it. It facilitates the Great Change Yvonne experiences: without it she would not begin to see her daughter as being strong; as taking care of her after her husband's death; and in that strength, that care, see her as different from the broken, addicted child she once was–and consequently see herself not as a failed mother (and wife), but as a successful one.

But is there truth in Ahmed's death? Or is it just used to frame and tie up the Great Themes of the book? Is it an organic occurrence against which Yvonne is reacting, or is it a melodramatic prop upon which her journey is brought to its well-articulated end? In its extreme potency as a thematic lynchpin, it does seem...convenient. Overdetermined. Pat. Perhaps that's OK–even necessary–and I am fixating on my own perception of authorial intent. Perhaps that just what fiction is: the boy needed to die, so that the novel would end well.

Or perhaps I've peeked the magician's wire, when I was meant to be distracted by her hand.

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