Anne Leigh Parrish’s “Our Love Could Light the World” explores the life of an American family in a series of related short stories. One might say the Dugans are the definition of dysfunctional, but their issues reflect the aspirations and failures of so many struggling families that one can hardly say they are atypical in any way. In fact, the term dysfunctional no longer has merit. What family is totally functional, nurturing, and uplifting, anyway? This is not to say that “Our Love Could Light the World” stoops to cliché. Rather, it comes alive in its particulars. From the chaotic introduction of the Dugans in the opening title story to Lavinia’s denouement at the end, I found the Dugans fascinating, real, and relatable.
Perhaps Anne Leigh Parrish’s greatest accomplishment in this work is her astute use of an omniscient narrator. For me, short stories with shifting points of view often seem confusing and objective to the point of being sterile, more form than function, but I found Anne Leigh Parrish’s use of the omniscient voice refreshing and enlightening. In fact, as I read further into the text, I appreciated the author’s choice because the narrator was able to provide insights otherwise inaccessible if she had used a first-person or close-third point of view.
“Our Love Could Light the World” isn’t romantic, nor is it nostalgic. It doesn’t give the reader a happy ending with everything resolved, nor does it plummet toward tragedy. Rather, it shows a family groping with change, the kind of change that disheartens the spirit, prompting a downward spiral into the vortex of self-pity, or, perhaps, the kind of change that stimulates growth, an awakening of greater awareness – something like wisdom.