Edgemont Drive, by E.L. Doctorow, reads like a writing exercise that was turned into a short story. The challenge: write a story using only dialogue! On the Flash Fiction Chronicles, Jordan Lapp writes about the difficulties regarding dialogue only narratives. Voices sound too similar is the main reason, though he does list some others as well.
Mystery is one way this story works. By having it in dialogue only, the reader is not just trying to grasp who the stranger parked out in front of the couple’s house is, but who the couple is as well. Also, the voices of the characters are strong, and they drive the story forward.
Where are they driving the story is the question? The couple plays out as a suburban stereotype. Husband is chauvinist and works to support the family. Feels his wife and children are ungrateful. The wife is dominated by the husband and unhappy.
Enter the Stranger who used to live in the house many years ago.
Husband is jealous and distrusts the Stranger. Wife is oddly charmed by him. Conflict ensues.
As the conflict resolves (nothing like a death, a wedding, or a birth at the end of a story), the Husband and Wife seem to reach an agreement or find some peace with one another. Is that the change? Is that what the reader is supposed to take away? The story starts mid-fight in regard to the Stranger’s appearance, so the reader has no idea what they are like prior to his showing up. At the end, not much seems to happen. But then again, isn’t that supposed to be the charm of suburban living?
You can read Doctorow’s inspiration for this story at the New Yorker.