Book Review: Pretend We Live Here Stories

Pretend We Live Here Stories
Genevieve Hudson
Future Tense Books
2018, Fiction, Short Stories

“Alabama, Arkansas,” the opening lines from the song “Home” by: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros got stuck in my head while reading Genevieve Hudson’s short story collection, Pretend We Live Here. The song discusses finding home not in a place but in a person: “let me go home, home is wherever I am with you.” Hudson, originally from Alabama, explores the notion of home— in a person, place, body or even one’s sexuality. The stories alternate settings between rural Alabama, Amsterdam, and the Pacific Northwest, but no matter the place, the characters are all trying to find themselves. Pretend We Live Here Stories collects queer narratives that because of their subject matter of “finding oneself”—both physically and metaphorically—they appeal to a young adult audience. Her other work, a novella, A Little In Love With Everyone is Hudson’s journey “down the rabbit hole” of queer heroes who inspire future generations to embrace their truths.

Certain stories stand out: In “Adorno,” vegan activists set across Spain to fight injustice with their own bodies, using menstrual blood instead of typical red paint to throw at lawmakers. Another story, “A Woman Without a Memory,” tells about a woman somehow making her way through life without a memory. In “The God Hospital,” set in rural, Alabama, a thirteen-year-old girl’s follows an infatuation with her second cousin and her boyfriend in the hopes of fixing her teeth. Instead, she’s left confused about herself and her sexuality. All of Hudson’s stories, told in the first-person point of view, center on characters discovering truths about themselves. Because of her point of view choice, the reader isn’t often sure of biographical particulars. At first, this intrigues the reader, but then, we’re left wondering. Ultimately, because of the lack of information, we, like Hudson’s characters, are left searching for identities and homes within in story. Home isn’t always necessarily where you lay your head at night, but is the place, person, or sexuality in which you are most comfortable. These short stories are a reminder of that.

In “Possum,” Hudson tells the story of how a woman looks for guidance from a psychic. Lost, she has nowhere else to turn but to the Universe. When the psychic tells her that she should get the woman out of her life, a person that she thought she could trust, she thinks: “She is holding my secrets, and they are kicking in her fists… I think she has a piece of me, and I wonder if that means I will remember her or if she will remember me.” In fact, it seems like all of Hudson’s stories operate on secrets—and this is what prevents the characters from finding their true homes. Unfortunately, none of the characters really find their true home. We only get to see them making progress or being at a standstill on their journey to find home.

For anyone who may be trying to discover themselves, be comfortable in their lives, and find where home actually is, Hudson’s stories offer an insight into others navigating this process. For this reader, I wish that they could an ending—happy or sad, but just some sort of conclusion. To someone in the process of growing up and learning, I would have liked to know how their story unfolded. But, the incomplete narratives made me reflect on my own life, and while I may not experience the same events as Hudson’s characters—rotten teeth or lying in a hospital bed dreaming of a person across the world—I could for a moment put themselves in their shoes, find a home in this collection. And that’s the whole point of reading.

Emma Storm ’19