My Escapee: Stories
University of Massachusetts Press
“My Escapee” is from Corinna Vallianatos’s debut collection, My Escapee: Stories (University of Massachusetts Press), winner of the 2011 AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, selected by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Vallianatos’s stories have appeared in Tin House, McSweeney’s, A Public Space, Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere, and included as one of “100 Other Distinguished Stories of 2008” in the Best American Short Stories 2009 anthology. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony and lives in Burlington, Vermont.
She said this about her story: My great-aunt was the inspiration for the character of Genevieve in “My Escapee.” She was a small woman with a schoolgirl demeanor and a habit of brightly anticipating the last few words of other people’s sentences, and finishing them. She lived on Cape Cod with her longtime companion, Marge. I saw her once a year, during the summer, when she visited her brother, my grandfather, in Ohio. Marge did not come with her.
When my great-aunt died, she lingered in my mind, all her untapped potential. She could’ve been the kind of relative about whom stories were told, lore created. Four or five years earlier, there had been a final trip to Ohio without Marge, when, suffering from Alzheimer’s, she had been moved into a nursing home.
I thought of the life she and Marge had created for themselves, and what passed for lore in my family: the way they never snacked between meals. Their pre-dinner martinis. The walks they took. Their neighbor, Alice Hoffman, who named a house or a homestead or something in one of her novels after some combination of their names. The togetherness of them, gone.
In my story, I wasn’t so much trying to bring them back together as I was trying to imagine what it was like to be apart.
Jhumpa Lahiri said this about the collection: “With the spare, definitive strokes of Matisse’s late portraits, the stories in My Escapee hew precisely to the truth, while rendering a series of expressive and particular female lives. The characters are disoriented, vulnerable, at times dependent on others; they are also determined, defiant, passionate. [The Stories] introduce a mature voice, an affecting and bracing debut.”