Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2006 | Reviews

The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space by Douglas Trevor

By Angie Toomsen
Pain comes from the darkness and we call it wisdom. It is pain. — from poet Randall Jarrell

The sobering passage introduces one — and underscores all — of the nine stories in Douglas Trevor's The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space. Winner of the 2005 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Trevor's heartbreaking collection depicts nine separate characters all struggling to come to terms with loss, grief, and the indelible footprint that death leaves upon the living.

In the title story, Elena's mind and body gradually corrode from incurable maladies of the brain. The former professor has lost her husband, lover, and the full use of her brilliant mind — but has retained the ability to mercilessly examine her own demise. In a desperate love letter to a female student, she challenges her imminent death with a cosmological theory of a "thin tear in the fabric of space" — a seamlessness of matter and spirit that allows the dead to intersect with the living.

In "The Surprising Weight of the Body's Organs," Sharon takes a job transporting donor organs after her little boy dies of kidney failure. Hauling coolers with livers and spleens through bustling airports, she sobers to the realization that her life-saving cargo has failed to lessen gravity's pull on her own heart.

Though most of the stories confront the deaths of loved ones, several deal with less tangible forms of loss. In "Saint Francis in Flint," a man loses his most prized religious ideals, while the old woman in "Labor Day Hurricane, 1935" recalls the year a storm devastated her family's business and its fragile spirit in one night.

The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space is not a light read, but the characters' dramatic motions toward unreachable closure gives each story its own vitality. Trevor, a UI associate professor of English, strings his meticulous tales together with delicacy and compassion, which foretells a great future for this gifted writer.