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“Tell me things I won’t mind forgetting,” she said.  “Make it useless stuff or skip it.”

Amy Hempel’s short story “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” is a story about sickness and loss.  A woman must go through the experience of watching her friend slowly become more sick and eventually die.  Throughout the story, the two women must come to terms with their mortality, and the effect that the sickness is having on them.  Both women know the narrator’s friend is dying, but they never discuss it.  Some things are too disconcerting to talk about.

I missed her already.

Amy Hempel’s writing is evocative and incredibly descriptive.  She prompts us to create our own images, we build the story with her.  She writes in a way that draws the reader in.  It’s both personal and impersonal, the mystery of her style bringing us closer to the characters.  We are brought into the story, truly feeling what the narrator is feeling.  With emotional poignancy and small moments of humor, the characters’ humanity is captured.  We care for the nameless women in this story, we feel their fear and ultimately, their grief.

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