Issue #127: Finding Peace

Our new story is by Sheila Schwartz, author of Imagine a Great White Light and Lies Will Take You Somewhere. In 2008, Sheila died after an eight year battle with ovarian cancer. “Finding Peace” is from a short story collection she completed just before her death, called In the Infusion Room. In it, Sheila “takes back” the cancer story–going to all the dark and unfriendly places our current culture obscures and hides, while maintaining a keen sense of detail and razor sharp wit. In “Finding Peace,” we find the narrator Sally climbing Mt. Everest with a group of fellow cancer survivors, determined to plant the first pink ribbon flag on the summit. Despite all of the “Yes We Can”s and positive thinking of her group members, Sally finds herself struggling to survive. And it is in this struggle that she unflinchingly faces the truth: in the end, all of our bodies will fail us. Before I picked up Sheila’s story, I knew that I would cry when reading it, but I also found myself laughing and cheering unexpectedly, and deeply grateful for the beauty of her language and the openness of her heart. To find out more about how Sheila wrote “Finding Peace,” visit the Q&A we did with her husband, the writer Dan Chaon. You can also read more about Sheila in this interview Dan gave with the rumpus.net.

2 thoughts on “Issue #127: Finding Peace

  1. Boy, I had the opposite reaction from a cheering or laughing point of view. Reading “Finding Peace,” I found myself short of breath, tired, wondering how it would end, wondering if I’d make it to the end or just give up and make it easy on myself. I had an image of One Story being the sure-footed Ellikka, assuring me that this was a GREAT STORY and WORTH READING. Meanwhile, it was killing me and I wished I was off this mountain.

    “Finiding Peace” disturbs. A L-O-T. I’m ordering Imagine a Great White Light now. Disturbed is good.

  2. I agree with Maggie: As a fan of nonfiction narratives about polar expeditions and outdoor adventures, I felt Schwartz captured well the feeling I might have, were I to wake inside such an adventure, of being utterly trapped. The character rightly calls b.s. on the Everest excursion, and the story leaves us in an ambiguous place where the character is facing neither up nor down, neither sitting nor standing.

    It was certainly the most satisfying of the past several issues, as the others were simply too schematic. This story didn’t exactly take off, as I’d hoped it would, but it did disturb, as Maggie says, by burrowing deeper into the experience of disorientation and doubt. The story looks over the precipice and finds the view both “panoramic” and “a blur.”

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