3 thoughts on ““Postcards from Natalie” by Carrie Laben”

  1. I enjoyed this one. Well-written; the postcards work well as a device. Probably not groundbreaking, but it had a lot of character to it, and lots of detail that brought it to life.

    Towards the end I felt like there was a very pointed statement developing about violence against women specifically, which I hadn’t caught early on. I thought that was well done – it managed to portray a more subtle neglect, a willingness to write women off as lost, rather than a coarser "people hate women and do awful things to them." It managed to make Natalie represent more than just herself, while keeping her own voice and identity.

    1. "We’re going up the mountain…. when we come down it will be in a way they can’t ignore." Definite shades of Sunny Moraine’s story "eyes I dare not meet in dreams" there. Against the normalization of the death of women… In this story, against their deaths being forgotten by being woven into a pattern of that’s-how-it-goes.

      A.C. Wise, in her review of this story, said that the ghosts stay on the road as long as their families have hope, but I think she is wrong for once. I think that the reason they vanish when their bodies are buried is because the burial ritual makes their families write "end" to the story and begin turning it into history. People with missing relatives talk about wanting to find their body, even when they know they’re dead, in order to have "closure". That word is used a lot. The story is "closed" with a tombstone on top of it.

      But the ghosts don’t want people to stop thinking about how and why they died, whether by violence or just neglect (I bet Keith didn’t even try to call an ambulance when he noticed that Natalie wasn’t OK). Natalie doesn’t stop writing when Mandy realizes she’s dead, because the story isn’t over in Mandy’s mind. She won’t "put it behind her". For some reason, she’s willing to let her mother go but not Nat. Maybe because she’s always felt that her sister was the only person she could talk to (she says she wouldn’t talk to her co-workers because she was "filled with something no one could talk to [her] about except Nat").

      I do have to worry about how Mandy will survive… normally, it would seem like she’s not all right at all, isolating herself with only Natalie’s postcards for company. But from her point of view, she’s waiting for something definite, this going up the mountain. There’s a bit of a conflict in that, for her sister’s sake, she has to not "move on", if having more of a life for herself would mean ending Natalie’s story. I guess that’s one reason this is a dark story.

      There’s a lot of things I like about this story. The sisters are well-characterized teenagers (imperfect: I cringe at the way Natalie talks about Alejandro, but hey, it’s believable), and leading a small-town life I can well imagine.

  2. By the way, this story takes place close to where I grew up (Mandy lives in Mumford NY, and I’m from Rochester less than 20 miles away), and the author used to live in the town I’m in now, Ithaca. Just a little extra interesting! I understand why Natalie was so pleased to find out that Tammy was from the same area as her.

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