There was something familiar about this story, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I got to the end. I then realized that I had been horrified of the story once before as a teenager in English class. Here I felt very much the same.
The story is a descriptive telling of the holocaust through the eyes of a mother and her two daughters. Cynthia uses short choppy sentences to give a stopping feeling while one is reading, it also gives a monotone sound which I think speaks volumes of the thoughts of the prisoner’s malnourished and tortured minds.
As I drew to the end I remembered what was about to happen, and I wished that it would not be this time. However it of course occurred and the silence that the authors writing portrays will make one stop to think. Think about what, I cannot tell you, for I think we all deal with deadening silence in our own dark ways.
From a writers standpoint I loved what Cynthia did. Before I read the piece I wondered how one could write a short historical fiction. It seems a bit like fantasy where there is so much world building going on, that many words are needed. “The Shawl” looked like a snapshot in time, a brief window to the past, one that you wish to shut due to its fowl yet sacred nature. I loved this idea of just a glimpse into the event, no other words needed besides the 2,000 she put on the page. I think, however, she had an advantage because the holocaust is so widely written and learned about in our quest to understand how something like that could ever happen. It might be more difficult to give a good snapshot when a reader doesn’t have such a large base of knowledge to draw from.
While the story is hard to read, I think it should be on your list if you haven’t already done so. I will be flirting with this snapshot idea in my own work done later this month.