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short story review: “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” by Linda Groff

This story follows the life of Jude, who was born in a “cracker-style” house at the end of a Florida swamp where his father captured snakes and other reptiles. He grew up used to seeing the specimens in jars throughout the house and the hearing the squeaks of doomed fodder mice.

His mother seemed made of frailer stuff. While she was pregnant with Jude’s little sister, she tried to get into the bathtub without her glasses, not seeing the albino alligator her husband was keeping there.

There is a sense of dread, of death, as well as love and longing permeating the story. Jude loves numbers and doesn’t talk much. His parents both love him, even if they have differences that drive them apart. When his father eventually dies, apparently from some venom while he’s out searching for snakes, Jude learns that even the thing you love the most can kill you.

The story is well written and sad. One also gets the feeling of great change over the story, as it begins slightly before the Second World War. As a married woman, Jude’s mother is not allowed by law to own property in her own right. She wants help with the housekeeping, but they can’t afford a white housemaid and Jude’s father won’t let a black person in their house.

According to the contributors’ notes, the title comes from a poem written by John Donne which speaks of the resurrection at the end of the world when humans meet god. The same poem contains the line “to your scattered bodies go.”

Title: “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners”

Published in: The Best American Short Stories 2014

First Published: Five Points 2013

Author: Laura Groff

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