When Cristina Huenriquez’ short story ‘Everything is Far From Here’ was published in The New Yorker’s July 2017 issue, there was so much buzz among its discussions.
An immigrant mother is separated from her young son as they cross the American border. She arrives at the camp earlier than her son and the rest of her time is spent worrying about him. At one point, her anguish gets the best of her and worries that she can no longer recognize her son. At another, she confuses a random boy with her son. When it is too much, she screams and the guards have to put her in confinement. She vows to stay here until her son comes.
The main question that arose was, how do you measure a story as literary art. Is it how well it evokes certain feelings that drift you into the intended emotional atmosphere or how well the story is built? The basis of this debate- which had very interesting arguments- was that the story has a nuance with real life events it talks about. While it is mere fiction, the critics argued that events and actions making up the story are both unrealistic and inaccurate. This, therefore negates it as a well-built story.
However, the most special thing about Huenriquez’ story, and what differentiates it from just any other piece of writing, is its ability to move the reader. The topic, in conjunction with a minimalist compressed structure takes almost everything away to replace it with more and more emotional imagination. This is evident within the first few paragraphs and maintains till the end. For that, i categorize the story as a good read.
One argument that i found rather specific and worth of my attention was how literature, or any kind of art for that matter, has the ability to influence and sway opinions and beliefs among people. How a novel, a painting or a short story can shape beliefs about the world and have social or political consequences.
This stemmed from the fact that the work is a story on a sensitive and trending topic, narrated in a seemingly inaccurate account of events than reality. Given the time of this story, it would be correct to say that it draws attention to the current real-world issue of immigrants. However, we must also keep in mind that this is pure work of fiction, and fiction is not factual.
There is also some tension prevalent from beginning to end, for those who read the story crossing fingers and hoping that the woman will finally be reunited with her son
In this story, Huenriquez has a way with words that evokes the intended emotions. From the beginning when the woman arrives, the reader can already empathize with her because of the arduous journey she has had, but still relieved that she is now safe. Events throughout the story are narrated to make the reader empathize with the woman’s plight and it fully achieves that. There is also some tension prevalent from beginning to end for those who read the story crossing fingers and hoping that the woman will finally be reunited with her son.
The author takes special care not to name the woman or her country of origin, which prevents readers from developing an identity for her. In her interview on The New Yorker, she said that,
“I’m interested in how, when we talk about immigrants or refugees, one of the first things we tend to ask, and sometimes the only thing we ask, is where they are from. As if that tells us all we need to know. But it doesn’t, of course.”
The story allows us to feel that that is more beyond the immigrants’ identity. It’s about their plight. Even at the end, the woman is still worried about her son who is yet to arrive. Huenriquez seems to imply that their plight goes further than these events.
What are your thoughts and questions on Everything is Far From Here by Cristina Huenriquez? Let me know in the comment section.
Featured image by Radek Homola on Unsplash