Leaving one’s spouse takes a lot of courage, and in the culture of the 1950s, that was even more the case. In “Sudden Squall” (Connotation Press), Judy Reeves explores a mother making that difficult choice, employing a particular sentence structure to shape the thematic content and reveal her protagonist’s character.
Two versions of this structure appear in the first paragraph of the story, both in privileged locations: the beginning at the end.
Except that the hills rose and fell and nudged the horizon in a rolling cadence, the space that spread before them would have been called wide open…Instead, the Buick nosed up, then down, then up and down again, a lazy roller coaster that lulled Louise and Roseann into napping in the back seat. Anna was the only one of the girls who stayed alert and were it not for the little girl’s insistent chatter, Lilly herself might have lapsed into a daze, or worse, into some reverie of how things might have been.
Were the country different, the nature of the drive would be as well. Were Lilly’s daughter different, so might have been Lilly’s frame of mind. Reeves uses this comparative if/then structure to show not just how Lilly thinks, but that another imagined reality—of how things might have been—is pressing on her.
This is important, because this car ride with her daughters is itself a decision to shape a new reality and escape an old one. Reeves reveals that her intention is to leave her cheating husband Sam to go and live with the children’s Aunt and Uncle.
Further along, she employs that same sentence structure to imagine what life would be like were she not to leave.
If she stayed and let him make up to her, for weeks on end she would have to give permission for each touch. Each time his hand lingered on her wrist, his fingertips grazed her hair. Forgive and forgive and forgive.