Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 14: The Wallet by John Updike

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Marion's Favorites, Marion's Reading Life Blog, Short Story Review, Wisdom of Kammbia Story Review | 0 comments

“It was my wallet. Everything is in it. Everything. Without that wallet, I’m nothing.”

Have you ever lost something and felt like your world was ending?  John Updike brings this common occurrence to life in his short story, The Wallet from the Trust Me short story collection published in 1987.  The theme for most of the stories in this collection revolves around trust or the lack of it.  Usually, the characters in an Updike story are dealing with infidelity or trying to navigate the sacred/secular divide.

However, The Wallet is the story of Fulham, a happily married, retired stockbroker that is coming to grips with his mortality. The wallet represents everything meaningful in his life: credit cards, driver’s license, health insurance cards, memberships to museum and other social clubs.  Updike captures perfectly the panic losing such a valuable item would be to a man at this stage of his life.

The retired stockbroker is entertaining his grandkids for the weekend and they are trying to pull him out of his well-defined daily routine. Fulham is a man that has everything planned, but life will always bring a blow of uncertainty at the most inconvenient time to teach a much-needed lesson.

The children spent the morning gorging on television and at lunchtime little Tod handed Fulham his wallet.  He said, “Did you want this, Grandpa? It was all folded up in the blanket.” His fat, worn wallet. His own.

“Grandpa has lots of wallets,” Tod’s shiny haired little sister chimed in. “He doesn’t care.”

“Oh, now, that’s not quite true,” Fulham told her, squeezing the beloved bent book of leather between his two palms and feeling very grandpaternal, fragile and wise and ready to die.”

Of course, the grand kids found grandpa’s wallet and though I gave away the story’s ending, the relief Fulham showed in the above paragraph is palpable and most people would feel the same way when they found such a valuable item. Updike writes a charming and thoughtful story showing how our trust (or over reliance) in material things can change in an instant and it should be placed in the ones who love you instead.







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Marion Hill