Into the Wilderness

  • Review
By – November 26, 2012

In these four­teen pow­er­ful sto­ries, David Eben­bach explores the theme of par­ent­hood. Four inter­con­nect­ed pieces anchor the col­lec­tion. They are told in the droll, sassy voice of Judith, an unin­ten­tion­al sin­gle moth­er, whose reac­tion, in the title sto­ry, to the sud­den, over­whelm­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty of her new baby, will be entire­ly famil­iar to any­one who has brought their infant over the thresh­old for the first time. Judith’s lov­ing par­ents stand close behind. Unwit­ting grand­par­ents, they have flown in from the Mid­west deter­mined to sup­port their daugh­ter and her infant through this dif­fi­cult time. 

In oth­er sto­ries, a les­bian cou­ple con­sid­ers whether their lit­tle boy needs a male role mod­el; a young cou­ple wres­tles with the pros and cons of par­ent­hood; anoth­er con­fronts infer­til­i­ty. In Hun­gry To Eat,” a dif­fi­dent father turns to an all-you-can-eat buf­fet to com­fort his heart­bro­ken son. Sev­er­al of the sto­ries dis­play Ebenbach’s par­tic­u­lar tal­ent for inhab­it­ing a female point of view. Always, the writ­ing is minute­ly observed, the dia­logue pitch-per­fect, as evi­denced as well in his fine first col­lec­tion, Between Camelots. 

Through­out the four sto­ries, Judith, whom we have fol­lowed close­ly through her ear­ly weeks of moth­er­hood, strug­gles to find a name for her daugh­ter. The col­lec­tion cul­mi­nates at the baby-nam­ing. Judith stands at the bima, her daugh­ter in her arms, look­ing down at her fam­i­ly and friends scat­tered among the con­gre­gants. Such a beau­ti­ful lit­tle neshamah,” the rab­bi says. Such a beau­ti­ful lit­tle soul. Do you have a name?” Judith paus­es for a moment, and nods.

This is David Ebenbach’s sec­ond sto­ry col­lec­tion. His first, Between Camelots, ref­er­enced above, was award­ed the Drue Heinz Lit­er­a­ture Prize in 2005. His poet­ry has appeared in Sub­trop­ics and the Hayden’s Fer­ry Review, among oth­er places. Also, he has pub­lished a non-fic­tion guide to cre­ativ­i­ty called The Artist’s Torah. He lives with his wife and son in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. where he teach­es at George­town University. 

Read David Eben­bach’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Judith Felsen­feld book of short fic­tion, Blaustein’s Kiss, was pub­lished in April, 2014. Her sto­ries have appeared in numer­ous mag­a­zines and lit­er­ary reviews, includ­ing The Chica­go Review, The South­west Review, Blue Mesa, and broad­cast nation­wide on NPR’s Select­ed Shorts.

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