Book Review: Into the Wilderness by David Ebenbach
Washington Writer’s Publishing House, 2012
Short Story Collection
Review by Debrah Lechner
The creation of a family brings joy, but also bridges life and death, and exposes our mortality. That exposure demands balancing forces: tenderness, humor, hope and faith. All of that is present in Into the Wilderness, but the element that gives piquant impact to these short stories is the fearlessness of the author in acknowledging the whole experience of parenthood, even when it is dark.
The urgency to create a family in the face of the inability to conceive and the emotion that engenders is brilliantly evoked in the simple four-page story “Is Anything too Hard for the Lord?” in which a childless couple of spiritual faith wait for a truck to turn into the parking lot of a store selling pornographic videos. The couple separately and silently prays that the driver will not make this turn.
Let him no longer turn away from the straight path, she prayed. She was surprised at the aptness of the words. . . she was sorting through the words stray neither to the left nor to the right, feeling a powerful prayer build, when the gap in traffic reached them . . Luisa exulted. Even now with this opportunity the truck driver could change his mind and drive forward. The truck, in fact, was not turning! In full joy she let the words Love is a straight path rise up, but before she could add the words to You, she saw the woman—the woman and her stroller.The suspense in this quiet moment is palpable and as fully capable of causing the intake and holding of breath as a scene in any thriller.
There is a great deal of joy in this collection that reinforces the tenderness and devotion of parenthood. The mood and message of the Into the Wilderness is well articulated in a scene between father and son from the short story “Hungry to Eat”:
. . .The thing is that now, for the first time, now that you’ve had this thing happen to you, because you heart’s broken, I can tell you—it’s only now that you're going to be able to go on and love somebody for real. . .like the person you're going to marry. . .like a child.Into the Wilderness is touching, profound, and above all, eminently readable.
David Ebenbach appears in Hayden’s Ferry Review 49.