“Chapter Two” Antonya Nelson

Antonya Nelson had my attention from the start of her story “Chapter Two”. She begins briefly mentioning an A.A. meeting before launching into a ridiculous story about her neighbor, Bergeron Love, who showed up naked on her porch one night. “Her neighbor’s nakedness seemed sad and enervated, breasts flat on her chest, a kind of melted look to her flesh, ankles thick on splayed bare feet. Southern belle in decline, a dismal After picture.” (page 173) The description seemed to depress the absurdity of the story. The image I had of her neighbor showing up naked on her porch is no longer as funny, instead I just feel sad for her.
The tense switches with the scene. The flashback has ended and now Hil is back in her A.A. meeting taking in everyones reactions to her story about Bergeron. The way in which her story starts with a bang distracts the reader from the other story that is being told. Hil likes to tell the story of Bergeron because she is “tired of telling her own story at A.A.” (page 173) Bergeron’s story is meant to take the spotlight off of Hils own life, which seems to be a failure. Bergeron’s crazy personality makes Hil seem more normal. Later she admits that “ It’s good to have someone else’s bad habits around to put your own in perspective.” (page 182) Nelson did a good job with switching from the present to a flashback; I never felt lost or confused about which was the present and which was the flashback.
Hils own life is never fully discussed. At the end of the story we still don’t know what happened between Hil and her husband or what Hil will do with the rest of her life. It doesn’t look too promising though. She leads a double life pretending to be almost a year sober at A.A. meetings when in reality she has not quit drinking. It seems her son Jeremy is supposed to be compared to Bergeron’s son, Allistair, who has grown up and left his crazy mother behind after spending his childhood embarrassed of her. Despite what Hil thinks Jeremy is embarrassed of his mom too. She is divorced, struggling with alcohol, and living with an obese woman. Soon like Allistair Jeremy will move out and on with his life.
At the end of the story Hil ends up finding a different A.A. place so she will be able to keep telling the story of Bergeron instead of her own. She isn’t ready to confront that maybe one day her life will end up like Bergerones with her son gone and no one their to love her.

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October 6th


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