Issue #218: Queen Elizabeth
by Brad Felver

218_coverI love a good love story. But boy, are they hard to pull off! The risk is getting too sentimental, or, leaning too far in the other direction, and becoming cynical and heartless. Every once in a while, however, a writer skillfully walks the emotional line, capturing the complicated truth of what it feels like to be bound to another human soul. “Queen Elizabeth,” by Brad Felver, strikes a perfect balance between reality and hopefulness, and blossoms just like the ancient tree at the center of this heartwarming tale. A great deal of its success has to do with the authentic and complex characters Felver creates: Ruth, a mathematician who uses numbers to cope with her emotions, and Gus, an artisan woodworker, who creates beautiful, handmade desks (that will haunt the dreams of any writer who reads this story). “Queen Elizabeth” begins with a tussle over the bill on first date, and ends many years later, with Ruth and Gus sitting across from each other once again, feeling the same pull towards each other that they did when they first met. Between these two brilliant set pieces, Brad Felver skips through time, zeroing in on the briefest of moments that often define our lives. I hope that you’ll read Brad Felver’s thoughtful Q&A with us, where he discusses everything from woodworking to Euclidean planes, and even gives a glimpse into Gus and Ruth’s future, past the memorable ending of this marvelously satisfying love story.

8 thoughts on “Issue #218: Queen Elizabeth
by Brad Felver

  1. Sorry to be the curmudgeon again. Couldn’t disagree more, Hannah. How a couple reacts to the death of a child has been the subject of many stories/films/plays, and there’s nothing here that seems fresh or new. The characters – New England academic and the rough hewn carpenter/artist from the midwest – could be from a romance novel. The choices Gus and Ruth (the names!) make are quite unsurprising, reactive, predictable…in short, banal. The writer glosses the dismal tale with interesting metaphors (math/political science), but the overall effect is cold and distancing, a strain to be literary. My favorite character was poor old Harold Gutman whom Ruth uses and abuses in the most unpleasant way. Why bother with these people? Again, though the author is male, I sense the appeal here to the female fantasies that underlie some of the previous stories such as Durga Sweets (where a guy mortgages his entire life over a woman he works for). Ruth allegedly falls in love with Gus because of his “mortification” over not being able to cover the tab on their first date… but I think the real reason is that it means she sees an opportunity to be in control! As she is later with Harold Gutman! …Always find these stories interesting though…Oh and one other thing: enough stories where a character makes something (a sweet, or a 3 legged desk) in that “just so” way …I’m all for artistry in carpentry or cooking, but as a way of ennobling a character, it’s kind of a cliche by now.

  2. I happened to really enjoy this story. While not as eloquently put as the former reviewer, I found QUEEN ELIZABETH poignant, yet gritty. There may be some flaws with the story, but life–and love, for that matter, are rife with them.

    On a side note, QUEEN ELIZABETH reminded me bit of Thomas Christopher Greene’s IF I FORGET YOU (Thomas Dunne Books, June 2016).

  3. The story did not work for me. Perhaps it had too many adjectives and adverbs, and I found it uninteresting, something déjà vu.
    I ready it all, but it didn’t click.
    I’m just an avid reader looking for the unusual that may give me something to think about. Everyday life has that, and when when we spot it life becomes different and meaningful . . . for a while.

  4. By page 9 I almost threw in the towel, but I persisted. At that point I simply asked myself, What is this about? Where are we going? Here’s a couple. Either they’ll stay together or they won’t. There’s just not enough at stake here. The writer hasn’t made me care enough, or wonder enough.

    I also thought it could do with some editing. Page 3: “the men separated from the women in a way that felt mannered and Edwardian.” Felt that way to whom? Gus? Would Gus find anything “mannered and Edwardian”?

    Page 7: No one at a dinner party has to explain not taking her husband’s name.

    Page 7: “She went back to the diaphragm without telling Gus.” No she didn’t. How do you use a diaphragm without your partner being aware of it?

    Page 8: Both their fathers died. So early? Gus and Ruth are what? 33? Their fathers are 63? They both died so young? Doesn’t this deserve some explanation?

    Page 13: The doctor is insane, and not fit to practice.

    I’m sorry to cavil, I really am. I know what agony it is to write, and I know the author put his heart into this, and I’m grateful to him. This story has great potential, but I didn’t feel it was ready for publication.

  5. I find the negative comments on this page so surprising. This was a magical love story to read and very true to my own relationships and I found it very moving and original in the way it captured small intimate moments in life. The desks were a wonderful detail and made me want to own one myself! I cared about this couple and what happened to them and missed them after I turned the last page. The complaints in the comments above seem petty. Readers should support writers, not try to tear them down. Brad Felver is very talented and I thank him for this story and wish him the best and hope that he has many more successes like this one.

  6. Now I know not every story is going to be to everyone’s taste, but for me this was a great story. It sucked me in wonderfully. Especially at 4 AM when I am working on falling asleep and it has me turning pages when I should be sleeping. I felt for both Gus and Ruth and could see from both perspectives as well as feel for them at the end of the story. And, wondered what happened to them at the end after their tea.

  7. Wonderful Story. Just read it in the O. Henry Prize Stories 2018.
    It sucked me in and wouldn’t let go till I finished. Very Real. Very Emotional. Very Well Written. I felt this story in my gut.

  8. Did anyone think that the three legged table was a metaphor for the family; and that without one leg (Annabelle), the marriage couldn’t sustain itself?

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