Short Stories 366:4 — “The Pursuit of…” by Courtney Milan

coverThe first of (likely many) novellas during this project to talk about short(er) fictions every day, The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan does something pretty damn amazing: it juggles really heavy, really depressing realities of history alongside two incredibly engaging characters and ends up telling a really delightful, funny, and uplifting story.

Full disclosure: I’ve read none of the rest of the Worth Saga (though now I intend to) and was instead just hunting around my lists of queer character novellas that I’ve picked up but hadn’t cracked yet during a post-headache day lie-in. This was the perfect companion. Henry Latham kind-of-sort-of surrenders/turns traitor at a battle during the revolutionary war, and John Hunter gives him his coat so he can pretend to be an American and slip free during the aftermath. Except Henry wants to thank him, and when he learns John is about to walk the long trek to Rhode Island to see if his family is still there, he just sort of comes with.

The story here is so incredibly integrated with the two characters—John is a freed slave who fought in the war to likewise gain the freedom of the man his sister married; Henry is a man with a runaway brain who has let down his wealthy family his entire life—and their positions on pretty much everything clash at the start. But as the journey continues (and god, the humour in these pages) they connect in a way that they both know to be, at best, temporary given their situations and statuses and lived realities. And then Milan does what queer people in history have always done: she finds a way. The result is a novella that left me smiling, and rekindled a little spark of hope.

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