The Middle Ground: Stories
Jeff Ewing’s The Middle Ground tells the tales of people at the edge of society, living divergent lives in rural America. Ewing’s subjects all share a deep and haunting sense of loneliness and alienation from others. Ewing’s sparse prose only serves to deepen the mystery about his characters and the empty stretches of land in which his characters reside. These stories also share a narrative preference to showing just a small glimpse into someone’s life.
Though this collection of vignettes and stories does not have a theme, Ewing visits several concepts more than once. He attends to odd relationships between people and is particularly fascinated with bonds between middle-aged men and unrelated younger girls. Several of these stories feature terse friendships between older men and a younger girl—usually the friend of his daughter. This leaves the reader with a weird ambivalence about the relationship, unclear if it is endearing or inappropriate.
My favorite story, and I think the most chilling of the collection, was “Ice Flowers” — the tale of a dispassionate man named Wilton who lives in a tundra-like territory. This land is saturated with death; Wilton lost his wife and daughter to an illness that swept the region in years past. Rather than mourning the loss of his family, Wilton remarks that he has passed the period of experiencing loneliness. As his loneliness has withered away, so too have his memories of his wife and daughter. Wilton remarks that he can no longer recall an impression of his late family and that his ability to feel loneliness, too, has frozen. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of human connection and to forge his own path, Wilton develops an obsessive habit for collecting and preserving ice crystals. Wilton develops a lovely friendship with the daughter of his neighbor, who ultimately dies in a chill. The most resonant concept in this story is the idea that your lot in life is handed to you. Wilton is described as a man who “wasn’t much of a farmer, never had been, but you inherited most of your life, like it or not.” Ewing shows us a bleak world in which people largely inherit their circumstances.
|Page Count||230 pages|
|Publisher||Into the Void|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Poetry & Short Stories|