Issue 161: The World to Come

Our staff is still aglow from our big Selected Shorts night, where we celebrated 10 years of publishing One Story, and our audience got a special advance issue of “The World to Come” by Jim Shepard. Now, dear readers, your copies should be arriving in the mail, and we’ll all get to enjoy “The World to Come” together. Set in the isolated farming community of Schoharie, New York in the 1850s, “The World to Come” is a unique love story told in the form of journal entries over six months, starting with a terrible winter storm and ending on a warm spring day in June. The closely observed details bring the hardships of this farming life into sharp focus, from the herbs used to fight fevers (valerian, lady’s slipper),  to the food they eat (snowpudding, corncakes), to the the tools they use (Cahoon sower, smoothing harrow), and the problems they face (brutal work, frozen chickens).  But it is the emotional layering of Shepard’s characters that draws and holds the reader, as our narrator finds her way out from under one loss, only to bear the weight of another.  Be sure to check out Jim Shepard’s Q&A with us on how he wrote “The World to Come,” and how he was encouraged to “look for the weirdness” in his own work. It is exactly this “weirdness” that has made Jim such a unique and important voice in the world of fiction, able to inhabit characters living in any era, from ancient Minoans to the pioneer women in this story. He is an expert at finding the inherent truths that flow through space and time–how we struggle to find moments of joy in a world full of trouble, even when the snow falls down and buries our chickens.

6 thoughts on “Issue 161: The World to Come

  1. Pitch perfect voice and tone, and consistently held throughout. Lovely use of mid-Nineteenth Century language and syntax. Diary form grabs your attention from the first sentence fragment to the last full stop. A delight to read.

  2. A pretty slow start, but really sucked me in a few pages deep. Made me feel really depressed about the time period and how difficult life was back then.

  3. Pingback: Jim Shepard in One Story Magazine!!! « Jim Shepard

  4. Few stories succeed as this one does in depicting the voids that can open in human relationships, even with the best intentions between parties. The journal as the only answer was a clever match of form and theme.

  5. Great story.

    While reading The World to Come I was trying to figure out the time frame. It was a year that Jan 1 fell on a Sunday. And then it turned out it was a leap-year. Sunday leap-years only occur every 28 years so it had to be 1838, 1860 or 1888 it seemed. But it turned out that Tallie’s husband was born in 1811, 19 years older than Tallie who was born in 1830. Tallie’s husband was 45 years so the year was 1856 which doesn’t compute with the necessary Sunday leap-year of 1860. ???

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