Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 12: Sticks by George Saunders

by | Dec 18, 2022 | Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Short Story Review, Wisdom of Kammbia Story Review | 0 comments

As I delve more into reading short stories, I keep coming across the name of George Saunders.  Whether it’s social media, online articles, or face-to-face recommendations, Saunders is one of short story modern masters and a must read of the art form.

I picked up the Tenth of December collection at my local library here in San Antonio.  The stories in this collection were published from 1995 to 2012 in various magazines.  Sticks is the oldest story in Tenth of December, first published in November 1995 by Harper’s Magazine.  A story of remembrance and nostalgia, Sticks captured a father-son connection through a pole placed by the father at the family home.

The son tells the story of seeing his father’s quirky habit of decorating the pole outside their house with numerous items that become more personal and poignant as the father approaches death. The story is only two pages and would be categorized as flash fiction but packs an emotional punch upon multiple readings.

Saunders writes the story in a tempo like it was a flood of memories from the son about his father’s peculiar habit.  It makes you wonder what one remembers the most about their parents. Life Lessons. Family Relations. Career Successes or Failures are the things that come to mind in memory of my parents.  Not decorating a pole in the front yard of the family home.

Saunders is encouraging us to reflect on the primal human need for ritual, for observing anniversaries–whether these are religious (Christmas, Easter), national (Thanksgiving, Memorial Day), or personal (his wife’s death). Ritual is a major facet of human life and without it creates a void that will need to be fulfilled.

However, the story’s ending shows how life moves on and ritual can be pushed aside instantly.  Sticks is an excellent piece of flash fiction that is worthy of analysis and further discussion.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Tenth of December collection and finding out what else Saunders has in store with these stories.



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Marion Hill