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New Yorker Fiction Review #141: "God's Work" by Kevin Canty

Issue: April 4, 2016

Story: "God's Work" by Kevin Canty

Rating: $/Meh

Review: I expected a bit better from Kevin Canty. The subject material here is good, a sort of "forbidden" teenaged flirtation between a Jehova's witness named Sander and a tattooed, not-very-religious, soon-to-be wayward teenaged girl named Clara. Sander and Clara are classmates, and when Sander's mother takes him to Clara's house, they encounter Clara's willfully un-religious father who promptly shows them out.

For whatever reason -- we hope curiosity about Sander -- Clara shows up at one a prayer meeting at Sander's church. She becomes somewhat involved, takes a walk or two with Sander, on which we think they are going to hook up, or at least kiss, but nothing happens.

Loaded with prurient tension, Canty didn't really do much with this story. I understand a story doesn't always have to have a Flannery O'Connor type "slap-in-the-face", WTF?!?! kind of ending, but when you have a forbidden romance in a story like this, you gotta push it a little bit further, no? What are we trying to do, here? Maybe in real life this is what would have happened (nothing), but this isn't real life, this is fiction.

Canty is responsible for the New Yorker fiction piece "Story With Bird" from the October 6, 2014 issue (TGCB 11/23/16) another story in which, also, nothing happens. But "Story With Bird" was the kind of wistful, ethereal kind of story in which it's okay for nothing to happen. It was more of a poem almost than a "story."

This here, "God's Work" was not the same kind of story and I feel a little cheated that he didn't push the story to do more, push it to a more discernible conclusion. I'm not asking for X-Rated teenage sex or anything, but some kind of resolution other than Clara moving out of town and everything going on just as it had before.

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