Even by short story standards, this seemed very short. I ended up reading this twice, and I definitely enjoyed it much more the second time around.
When I first read this, I thought that this was going to be a story about the conflict between the Putnam women’s magic and the science and technology that their husbands were bringing into the family. The first thing we learn about the Putnam husbands is that they have brought “telephone wires, electric lights, water pumps, brass plumbing” to the ancestral home, and Cecily Putnam’s objection to her granddaughter’s husband is that he is an engineer. Because of this, reaching the turning point of the story where we learn that Simone and Sam’s daughter Nina has inherited her father’s magical abilities threw me for a loop.
Reading the story a second time and knowing the twist that was coming, I think I appreciated the rest of the story more — not just the exploration of Cecily Putnam’s fear of change, but also of Simone’s love for her daughter and desire to appreciate her for who she is, rather than value her primarily as a means of carrying on the family tradition to the next generation, as Cecily seems to.
Wait, were they her father’s powers? I thought they were the Putnam line’s powers, just slightly different this time around. Like, the father might’ve had some influence, but so far as I know, it’s never established that the father has powers, simply that he’s an engineer
I guess they could be. But I read the fact that Simone’s husband has seen Nina’s powers and warned her not to let Simone see because it might scare her as him being previously aware of those powers. If they had come as a surprise to him, surely, he would have discussed it with his wife?!
He definitely knew about those powers before his wife did, but it doesn’t establish at any point that he has powers other than an engineering degree.
I have read this through a few times and whilst I enjoyed it, I am not 100% sure I get it. Whilst I like stories being open to interpretation and not needing to explain things, a lot of elements are left untouched and could really do with some expansion on what is going on and people’s motivations. There are definitely elements around hidden family secrets and the suppression of women’s powers but the why is left so open I found myself scratching my head trying to work out why everything was happening and the intention of the story.
This story does feel rather vague, even for a short story where there must, by virtue of the format, be limited information and scope. I ultimately enjoyed it, but this is one of those stories where it’s more of a feeling than a plot.