Her Story: The Road Taken is a short piece of fiction that focuses on a young woman’s travails in the mid-19th century American South.
Lilly Booker is born into poverty and displacement in rural Georgia. Separated from her mother, she endures abuse from her stepmother but loves time spent with a half-sister. Life changes find Lilly married young, getting an education despite the low regard for a woman’s potential at that time, converting to Christianity, being reunited with her birth mother —and more. It’s a lot to absorb in under 60 pages.
Creative writing courses often generate argument about the differences between a short story, novella, and novel. Her Story: The Road Taken is really none of these. The narrative rushes from event to event, scarcely allowing readers time to take a breath before the next crisis springs into view. Despite writing that can be grandiose—the first page includes the line, “Each moment created a thread in the tapestry of life that would remain indelible for all time”—author Pink offers few details to flesh out characters and events. The result is a work that is more plot treatment than fully rendered narrative.
Pink has the outline of a great story, of any length, here. A short story might center only on Lilly’s decision to elope with her boyfriend, an older man who represents an escape from home but may carry his own risks. A novella that addressed the book’s central violence, the lynching of a white man warned by the Klan to stop teaching blacks, could play history off against the racism of the present day. A novel could greatly expand the story so that readers have a chance to get to know the characters.
As currently written, however, this is a well-executed plot outline with far too little in the way of supporting details. One hopes the author will go back to the drawing board to create a fuller work of fiction that could have much wider appeal.
Also available as an ebook.