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Homecoming 2.3

by Elinor


Rosalie awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom after a vivid dream. She had been at the train station. It seemed to be Union Station. It wasn’t explicit, but that was what she had sensed from the dream, even though she had never actually been. Rosalie sensed she was older from the way she dressed and carried herself. She had a train to catch, but was running late. It was busy and she couldn’t find her gate, for it hadn’t been printed on her ticket. Then she found herself lying in her own bed without any resolution.

As she started walking back to her room from the bathroom, she felt an aute sense of awakeness and figured that she was going to have trouble in falling asleep again. As Rosalie passed her mother’s room, she thought she heard her stirring. Then, the sound of crying. She was definitely awake and she was crying. Rosalie paused, wondering if she ought to do something. She vividly remembered a similar scenario once after they had just moved to Chicago.

They’d only been in their apartment for a few weeks, and it was still filled with boxes. It was springtime. May 8th, 1945. VE Day. She still heard the voice of the radio announcer. Germany has surrendered unconditionally to the allied powers, led by General Eisenhower….

She and her mother and Sean had been sitting on the couch. Rosalie remembered her mother’s face. Elation that quickly turned into uncontrolled sobbing and then nothing. Walking silently to her bedroom. Later that night, Alison had not emerged from her bedroom and Sean and Rosalie were beginning to get hungry. Sean had gone to check on her, and when he returned to the living room he told Rosalie that Alison had told him to make peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.

“Want to get a hot dog?” Sean asked. Rosalie nodded, and they took the train into the city.They got their hot dogs from a stand and sat on a hemspherical jungle gym in a park, looking up at the sky. It was a warm night and they sat there for a while, not really talking. Then, Rosalie turned to her brother.

“Do you think mom will ever be happy again?”

Sean didn’t answer.

It had been like that rather regularly for the past six months. And now, even though they had won the war, and many soldiers would be coming home, there was one soldier who wouldn’t be.

They’d gotten the telegram two days before Christmas. Their father had been away for a year at that point, and the last correspondance from him had a month earlier. He was tired, and he missed them all terribly. He didn’t know when he was going to be able to come home, but he hoped it would be soon. And although he wouldn’t be able to make Christmas, he would be with them in spirit. Still, they’d done it the way they always had. Gotten the tree from the tree farm. Brought down the box of decorations. Listened to the classics on the radio. Snow fell softly outside against the black night. Rosalie remembered it so vividly she could hear the music playing, feel the texture of the ornaments in her hands, see the pale yellow of their walls, taste the aftertaste of the roast Alison had made for dinner. It was perfect, and the only thing missing was him.

The doorbell rang. Alison set down her ornament. “I’ll get it,” she told her children.She opened the door. Sean and Rosalie both saw the Western Union man hand Alison the telegram and quickly walk away. Alison drop it into the snow. Weakly pick it up. Close the door. Walk over to her children, and hug them tightly as she sobbed.

Only a year before they’d all been together. They’d been happy. No, it had been better than that. They’d been blissfully happy. And in their household, Christmas was the best time of the year. Jim was the only person Rosalie had ever known that preferred winter to the summertime, a fact that Alison often reminded her children of in the following years.

One day, about a week before their last Christmas together, they’d been sitting around the radio after dinner. Earlier that day, they’d been sledding, and Rosalie had gone down by the hill by herself. Rosalie had tried to sit in her father’s lap.

“You’re getting a little big for that, pumpkin,” he told her.

Alison motioned for Rosalie to come sit next to her and Sean on the couch, and she did. Before, Jim stopped his daughter and kissed her on the forehead.

“I was thinking that tomorrow we could all drive up town to see the Christmas lights. Maybe stop for some hot chocolate after?” He said, winking at his children.

They both enthusiastically agreed. Nevermind the hot chocolate didn’t taste as good as it did before the war due to the sugar rations.

Alison smiled, standing up. “I’m going to make a pot of tea. Does anyone want any?”

They all shook their heads. She walked into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later. Her face was pale and her step was heavy.

“Rosalie, Sean, it’s bedtime,” she said, giving Jim a look.

“It’s only eight o’clock,” Sean protested.

Jim looked at his children. “Listen to your mother.”

So they did. Not able to sleep because it was still early, they heard their parents arguing downstairs. They rarely, if ever argued, so it had to be serious.

Rosalie went downstairs. They were in the living room, and she hid around the corner in the entryway.

“I was going to tell you tonight,” he said. “I wanted to wait until it was for sure.

“You could die.”

“I’m a survivor, alright?” He looked at his wife lovingly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “We both are. This is just one more thing. And we’re going to get through it.”

Alison started to say something, but she ending up crying, finding herself in Jim’s arms. That’s when they both saw Rosalie.

“Go to bed,” he said in a stern voice he rarely used.

“I heard everything,” Rosalie said.

Jim sighed. “Get your brother.”

He explained that he’d been drafted, so this is what he had to do for the good of the country. He would miss them every day, but they would write letters and before they knew it, he would be home again.

It was not to be.


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Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:52 am
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Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, Elinor! I've not read the other parts of this story, but this has been kicking around in the Green Room for quite some time so I thought I'd drop in and review it. I know the general premise of the novel so I could follow this pretty well, but I apologise if I misunderstand some things. I don't feel like this was the best chapter to come into cold, given that it's so backstory-heavy, so take some of my critiques with a pinch of salt.

Small Comments

It seemed to be Union Station. It wasn’t explicit, but that was what she had sensed from the dream, even though she had never actually been. Rosalie sensed she was older from the way she dressed and carried herself. She had a train to catch, but was running late. It was busy and she couldn’t find her gate, for it hadn’t been printed on her ticket.


I think you could've done with a bit more description of the dream setting, because this feels more like you're reporting the dream to me than evoking it. You skimp on quite a lot of details, like what the station looked like, what she was actually dressed in, how the busyness affected her - as in, were people bumping into her or crowding round her? Obviously dreams can be vague sometimes, so I'll give you some leeway, but it would've been nice for you to set the scene more.

As Rosalie passed her mother’s room, she thought she heard her stirring. Then, the sound of crying. She was definitely awake and she was crying. Rosalie paused, wondering if she ought to do something.


You don't need that middle sentence - you're just repeating what we already know.

Rosalie remembered it so vividly she could hear the music playing, feel the texture of the ornaments in her hands, see the pale yellow of their walls, taste the aftertaste of the roast Alison had made for dinner.


This is a nice passage, but it's lacking a bit of specificity. What music? What texture? What aftertaste? You don't need to add much, but a few extra details would go a long way. If you had something like:

Rosalie remembered it so vividly that she could hear the carols echoing back to her, feel the cool, slippery texture of the ornaments in her hands, see the pale yellow of their walls, taste the turkey Alison had made.

This is just an example, but I think adding in those extra specifics makes the scene much easier to ease into. Instead of having to grapple in the dark and conjure our own idea of what the music and texture and taste was like, it offers the reader a foothold.

One day, about a week before their last Christmas together, they’d been sitting around the radio after dinner. Earlier that day, they’d been sledding, and Rosalie had gone down by the hill by herself. Rosalie had tried to sit in her father’s lap.

“You’re getting a little big for that, pumpkin,” he told her.

Alison motioned for Rosalie to come sit next to her and Sean on the couch, and she did. Before, Jim stopped his daughter and kissed her on the forehead.


This relates to what Biscuits said about the memories getting a little confusing, but this part is hard to process. Because you barely set the scene for the memory of them sitting around the radio before leaping fleetingly into the sledding memory, I can't keep track of which one we're supposed to be in. My first assumption when 'Alison motioned for Rosalie' was that we were still talking about sledging, so it was jarring when I realised we'd leapt forward into the radio memory again.

Overall Thoughts

Okay, the first thing I want to talk about is description, because it kind of relates to what I've mentioned in the small comments. I've noticed that you're prone to lines like this:

As Rosalie passed her mother’s room, she thought she heard her stirring.


Not able to sleep because it was still early, they heard their parents arguing downstairs.


There's nothing glaringly bad about these lines, but you are consistently doing something that cuts out the middle man. Rather than describing the sounds themselves and leaving the reader to infer what they are, you describe what they are and leave the reader to infer how they sound. You're making us work from the top downwards, which is okay sometimes, but if it happens consistently, it gives the whole story a bit of a tell-y vibe. Consider the difference between these examples:

From the office, I heard people arguing, then the sound of someone being thrown into a desk. The arguing stopped.

From the office came raised voices, then shouting, then a sudden crack of bone on wood. After that, silence.

You'll see that while the second example never specifies that an argument is taking place or that somebody has been thrown into furniture, it is precise about the sounds that can be heard. It champions description of sound over the reason for the sound, which means that the reader has to build meaning from the ground up. That's how showing works. Often, good writing will interweave specific description with a mention of what it signifies, which is fine. But specificity is always important.

Returning to the quotes from your story, try to think about what it sounds like when somebody stirs and what it sounds like when people argue. Communicate with your reader without stating everything outright. I always find that building meaning upwards rather than downwards is much more immersive.

With that out of the way, let's address the rest of the chapter. Coming in on a backstory-based instalment isn't the best, because backstory is one of those things that only becomes really interesting when you know the character whom it belongs to. However, that's an issue with me, not you, because judging by Bisc's review, you held back on this for a while.

Bisc is right that the layering of memories gets a big confusing in places, especially given that you work backwards from Jim dying to him then being drafted. However, for the most part I felt like you delivered a clean, clear narrative that I could follow with ease, despite me having come in on the sixth instalment. Your dialogue is strong (as expected from such an avid scriptwriter!) and you do have some really nice scenes in here. I particularly like the moment where Rosalie and Sean go to get hotdogs rather than sitting in eating peanut butter.

One thing I would like to talk about, however, is Jim's characterisation. He's a little too perfect for my liking. Obviously he's Rosalie's father and she's likely to rose-tint him, but I don't really get any sense of his flaws or even the shape of his character in general. He falls into the characterisation that lots of dead parents often fall into in fiction - they were the MC's world, so gentle and special, and their death transformed everything from a dream to a nightmare. It's a bit of a cliché, and I can't help but think that Jim - and by extension Rosalie's relationship with him - would be more interesting if he wasn't so pristine. There's also a realism element, too, because very few people have spotless relationships with their parents. Don't get me wrong, he could still be a great dad, but I feel like Rosalie's whole mourning process would be more engaging if her feelings were a bit messier towards him. It feels like you're writing to a type rather than constructing a completely original dynamic.

Final note, though: I really like that, while it's a historical novel, it still feels really accessible. The world of the story is different, but it doesn't feel unfamiliar. What often turns me off about stories set in the past is how alien the characters and setting feel, but you've done well to capture the universals that exist among every generation and keep the reader connected.

And that's about all I've got to say! It's a solid chapter and there's a lot of potential in it, but I think it just needs individualising a little more, particularly where the characters are concerned. I know you've stopped doing this novel for LMS, but I remember you saying that you were planning to keep writing it outside of the comp, so hopefully this helps some. If you want me to expand on anything I've said here, don't hesitate to ask.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




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Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:04 pm
ExOmelas wrote a review...



Yay, I'm glad you made it in time for this week's submission :)

Nit-picks:

she felt an acute sense of awakeness

Just a typo. Do you want me to stop pointing out typos? I know it doesn't really make a difference for the story but it just saves you time combing through later. But then again you might be scrapping big chunks like a lot of people do in redrafts, hence I'm not sure. Let me know :)

Some more typos:

hemispherical jungle gym in a park


last correspondance from him had been a month earlier


“I’ll get it,” she told her children.She opened


Rosalie had gone down by the hill by herself


after?” Hhe said, winking at his children.


Overall:

I realise literally all my nit-picks were typos but a) if I'm not thorough, then the pro of highlighting typos doesn't even stick and b) hey! That means I had no actual stylistic or plot related nit-picks, so good job :D

There's one thing I struggled with here, then I'll go onto why I liked it. The way the memories are layered on top of each other does get somewhat confusing. Rosalie remembers when they got the news, and then the Rosalie in the memory remembers when Jim got drafted. I'm not sure how to explain this but it was like I had to adjust who was present-Rosalie to the one at the time of the death notification, and consider the memory of the conscription day in the context of what it would mean for death-notification-Rosalie. This meant I sort of lost contact with present-present-Rosie, which made the chapter feel not as neat as it could have been. I have no idea how to explain why that's important but I swear it did bother me xD

What I really really liked though is that a whole chapter was given over to what happened to Jim. I've been wondering about it for long enough that it really needed a big gesture like this. Jim was characterised earlier so that wasn't quite what this was about but the traits established for him were very well called back to, especially by mentioning sledding, which was the setting of the scene we read about him before. I think the scene could maybe be slowed down slightly to make the pain of him saying he would be fine even more bittersweet, but the necessary sentiments are all there.

Being told about something I've wanted to know is basically as good as plot progression, for me, so I don't believe what I'm about to say, but some people might be bothered by you not taking whatshisface from the last chapter anywhere in this one. Those people are impatient, but I'm fairly sure they exist, just so you stay aware of that :P

Hope this helps,
Biscuits :)





There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.
— Bram Stoker