Posted in Short Stories

Philip F. Deaver: Silent Retreats

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 7

One Monday morning on the way to work, the traffic pausing behind school buses, Martin Wolf was suddenly struck by the circularity of life and began to sob. Or maybe it wasn’t the circularity but something made him sob and he thought that was it.

While Philip F. Deaver’s short story “Silent Retreats” involves faith and spirituality, it also involves doubt. In fact, doubt is probably the bigger theme. We never understand exactly what triggers Martin Wolf’s crisis of faith but that’s probably because he doesn’t either. Sometimes I thought maybe he just needed a good cry which he does on numerous occasions throughout the story.

The title comes from Martin’s attempt to find out from a priest where he could go on a silent retreat. According to the priest, silent retreats aren’t really “the thing” anymore. Most retreats involve getting into small groups and sharing. It doesn’t come as a surprise that this doesn’t appeal to Martin.

Deaver puts enough humor into this story to keep it from being a complete downer but he keeps Martin’s struggle real. It was a little funny how Martin spooked the school librarian when he showed up just to “see” his son in the first grade. The author also makes Martin’s doubt real by not giving the story a nice resolution. Martin doesn’t get any of his questions answered and he never actually gets his silent retreat but we are left with the idea that perhaps he might be on his way toward finding at least a few answers.

This story is included in The Best American Catholic Short Stories edited by Daniel McVeigh and Patricia Schnapp. I read it when I selected the Ace of Diamonds for Week 7 of my Deal Me In short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

This is the first story by Philip F. Deaver that I’ve read. I have one more on my DMI 2020 list. Have you read any of Deaver’s stories? If so, which ones would you suggest?



2 thoughts on “Philip F. Deaver: Silent Retreats

  1. Hi Dale,
    Sounds like one of those stories that can put into words feelings many of us have at one time or another. Sometimes I get “lost in thought” myself about the circular nature of life and have a blinking out into existential crisis mode, but I usually pop back quickly and ‘get on with what I’m doing.” Ha- I just reminded myself of a quote that I think was attributed to Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going!” 🙂

    1. Hi Jay,
      What a great line from Churchill! I need to remember that one! This story was very relatable and while there wasn’t any definite ending, I have a feeling Martin followed Churchill’s advice.

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