One Story Issue #257: Samantha Silva’s “Leo in Venice”

Our newest issue is edited by the great Karen Friedman. Here’s her introduction. -PR

In June my eleven-year-old went to sleep-away camp for the first time. As we wound our way through rural Missouri roads in the pouring rain, I kept asking how she felt. Excited. Impatient. Maybe a little nervous. Despite heading to a place where she knew no one, she didn’t hesitate when the moment finally came to leave. She barely waited for good-bye. Not wanting to embarrass her, I scooted back to the car and drove off. But as soon as cell service returned, I called her father (only slightly hysterical) to explain my overwhelming need to go back and hug her one more time, just to make sure.

The funny thing is I’m not normally that kind of mom. I want my kids to be independent, have humble-bragged for years about my daughter entering preschool without turning back, just an arm thrown in the air as she headed to the sand table. Here she was again, confidently facing the unknown without me. This time for a week. I should have felt like I’d earned a parenting gold star. Instead, I listened to bad 80s pop and tried not to cry all the way back to St. Louis. In the Q&A for One Story issue #257, “Leo in Venice,” author Samantha Silva says, “we raise our kids to leave us, but our letting go is another thing.”

Learning what and how to let go is at the center of “Leo in Venice.” In this beautiful and heart-wrenching story, we’re introduced to Annie and her nearly grown son, Leo. Due to a chronic illness theirs is an uncommon relationship—one forged in pain, but also humor and wit and a wide acceptance of who the other person is and what they are capable of enduring. In short, it is a love story. But it is also the story of a breakup. By bringing the reader to the moment of goodbye, we witness Annie’s simultaneous support of and struggle to accept her son’s decision to leave. Set against the often mystical backdrop of Venice, a city that has long lived in their collective imaginations, Annie at last begins to see herself apart from her son.

By the end of the story we are left with the unsettling knowledge that it is our job to let our children go, and yet the impulse to hold on, to go back and ask for one more hug never goes away. It is an honor to introduce you to Samantha Silva, a gifted storyteller whose unflinching eye is tempered with compassion and levity.

Read Karen Friedman’s Q&A with Samantha Silva here.

3 thoughts on “One Story Issue #257: Samantha Silva’s “Leo in Venice”

  1. I have read “Leo in Venice” now 5 times, and each time I am brought to my knees by the power of love Annie and Leo hold for each other, just like my son and I had for each other. Only I did not know what was coming, never would it have crossed my radar screen that things would happen like they did. I envy Annie the foreknowledge she had, hard as that might seem. I love the agreements they had, the promises made, the clarity of it all. I thank Samantha Silva here for the powerful story she told so eloquently, so powerfully, so beautifully. It gives me another chance to open my heart, cry my tears, and love again my amazing son who wis so much like the Leo of this remarkable story! Many thanks for the beauty!

  2. This story touched me deeply and lifted my soul. It reminds me how to appreciate even more whom I have now in my life and whom I have had in the past. In a time of brazen self-centered behavior and thinking in our country, this story is beautiful symbol of selfless heroism, gratitude, and love. Thank you Ms. Silva for this wonderful, masterfully written story. And kudos for doing your homework about the incredible city of Venice in order to use so vividly and accurately such a setting for Annie and her son, the Lion.

  3. Wow.

    This is the first “One Story” short story that I had received and I don’t know why I waited this long to finally crack it open. It feels like every page is a new twist and turn – either from the past or the present.

    When Annie is growing desperate in the square while waiting for Leo to return. In her mind, right away there’s the worst case scenario. Given Leo’s history and ultimate desire for this trip, it’s not the most out there possibility but her nerves make the wait unbearable and I loved that.

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