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James Baker Hall: If You Can’t Win

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 38

…the letters tortured and jumbled up and painfully beautiful: I hope I win but if I don’t I hope my effort is courageous – when I see that I say amen.

The narrator of James Baker Hall’s short story “If You Can’t Win” is a doctor married to a gas station attendant. She is attempting to take care of her best friend’s mentally disabled adult daughter who has climbed on the roof because a horse died. The roof incident is the last draw.

The story is told in a very conversational manner and the fact that she is a doctor can take the reader by surprise. If the reader listens to the story, though, they can tell that the narrator has not only intelligence but perseverance, too. I would say that the effort in the quotation above is perhaps the theme of the story. This effort doesn’t come without pain. In spite of everything, she has more than muddled through.

This story is included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Queen of Clubs for Week 38 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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