Our new issue, by the talented writer Emma Donoghue, was edited by Contributing Editor Will Allison, so I am turning the reins over to him for introductions. I hope you all enjoy this Dickensian short story, with a real O.Henry twist! -HT
When I first picked up the story in our latest issue, Emma Donoghue’s “The Widow’s Cruse,” I thought there was a typo in the title. Surely it was supposed to be curse, right? Like the story’s scheming protagonist, the lawyer Huddlestone, I was familiar with neither the word cruse (noun, a small vessel, (as a jar or pot), for holding a liquid (as water or oil)) nor the Bible story about the widow’s cruse of oil that miraculously supplies Elijah during a famine (I Kings 17:8–16). Now I know a little better.
I’m always happy to read stories that open up new worlds for me, and as a consumer mostly of contemporary fiction, I found Donoghue’s richly imagined tale of eighteenth-century New York City to be just such a story. The consensus among One Story editors is that “The Widow’s Cruse” is an old-fashioned story in the best sense of the term: it’s full of well-chosen period details and language; it’s written with a degree of ironic distance that brings to mind Jane Austen; and it includes a twist ending that would make O. Henry proud but that also feels inevitable in retrospect.
To read more about “The Widow’s Cruse”—including Emma’s thoughts on writing historical fiction—please check out our Q&A with the author.