Short Story #37: The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich
Title: The Red Convertible
Author: Louise Erdrich
Short Story #37 out of 365
Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)Date Read: 2/4/2014
Source: I found this story online at this website.
SummaryLyman begins his story by explaining that he was the first to ride a red convertible to on the reservation until his brother Henry, whom he bought the car with, "bought out my own share." He tells of some early adventures with the car wherein they traveled across the country and made interesting friends. However, Henry is eventually drafted and sent off to the Vietnam war. Lyman is left with the car and works to repair it into pristine condition for Henry's return. When Henry returns, he has lost the essence and vibrance that Lyman knew his brother to have. In an effort bring life back into his brother, Lyman trashes the car and tells Henry that he hasn't really cared for the car. This sends Henry into becoming a bit more of himself and working ceaselessly on the car until it's full restored. They drive out to a river and Henry tries to give the car to Lyman but he refuses. This evolves into a fist fight briefly and then the brothers quickly get over it. As they talk afterwards, Henry gets a little goofy and strange, jumping around and gesturing which sends Lyman into fits of laughter. Right after, Henry says he's going to cool off in the river and Henry goes off to die. Lyman tries to go after him but Henry is too far gone. Lyman sends the car into the river and declares that he will walk everywhere from now on.
The story is well executed on many levels. The misdirection that has readers believing early on that Henry is alive, only to find that he has died was well done. Up until that moment, readers have a hope that Henry will survive through Lyman's efforts, but that is pulled away in the closing paragraphs. The politics of the story are also fascinating in terms of healthcare, environment, and treatment of Native Americans on reservations. This is felt mostly with the descriptions of the landscapes filled with trash where one might expect to see nature. Erdrich does well with capturing these two brothers and their connection as well as their disconnection and the way life can send two people from the same place down very different roads.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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