Backward in Seville by Audrey Niffenegger

I first read “Backward in Seville” by Audrey Niffenegger in Shadow Show, a collection of short stories in celebration of Ray Bradbury.

Helene and her recently widowed father Lewis are on a cruise in Spain; a cruise that Lewis and his late wife, Helen’s mother, Nora were supposed to have gone on together until her untimely death earlier that year. Helene is trying her best to be happy for the sake of her father, but the absence of her mother is heavy around her.

As the small cruise ship they travel on backs in and out of the canals in Seville, gliding slowly over the water, she wishes the world would also go backwards in time; so her mom wouldn’t have died, so the man she had been in love with wouldn’t have left her, so everything could be different. The abundance of older couples on the cruise are certainly not helping her distract her mind. As the small cruise ship passes underneath bridges, a small and almost unnoticeable change occurs and Helene is overjoyed, both for her father’s new freedom and for her own answered prayers.


I loved how this story crept slowly along, much like a gentle ship on the water. As the ship meanders through the water we learn about Helene’s personal life and desires in bits and pieces between her travels around Seville, making the climax at the very end of the story that much unexpected and impactful. More from Shadow Show next week!

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