The Mission – Joy Williams
The Mission was first published in Little Star #5 and is published here by Harpers Magazine. Williams is the author of four novels, including Honored Guest, and three books of short stories.
“The heroine (and she is a heroine) of this Joy Williams story has been imprisoned for a felony that she considers mundane compared her fellow inmates’ crimes. She has driven her car through a cemetery leaving her bemused at the disproportionate reaction; ‘They howled for my ruin. I’d been told their anguish was existential and therefore without limit or promise of closure. Reparation would never be enough.’ It is this wonderful, disarming use of language that sets the tone for the story. Our narrator is an unreliable, yet engaging voice. She talks of her incarceration as one looking in from the outside. She is rebellious, mischievous and condescending of her fellow ‘guests’ and yet we have this feeling that actually she is rather proud of her ‘stay’.
This is a great story that moves at pace thanks to some marvellous dialogue, not only from our narrator but also from the part-players Mr. Hill and the Lawyer; ‘ “I want to be able to come and go out there.” “Don’t we all,” the lawyer said. “I mean in the deepest sense.”’ Ultimately her incarceration isn’t as it seems, but somehow – wonderfully – we don’t feel unhappy for her, we feel she has found herself exactly where she wants to be.”
The SHORT TALE Review 2016