Short Stories 366:134 — “Alone,” by Nathan Fréchette

coverI’m trying to remember how many stories I’ve read with a dissociative identity character where (a) the character isn’t some sort of revelation/plot-wrinkle, (b) and/or they’re not the villain, and/or (c) where the resolution isn’t about aligning them under one self and I’ve honestly got nothing—that is, until I read “Alone” in Nothing Without Us. Here, Max is dealing with a major loss of a loved one and finds themself overwhelmed—and the plurality comes to the foreground in a different way.

As Max struggles to navigate the loss they’re facing down, their other selves surface in different ways at different times, and I think what’s done so incredibly cleverly in “Alone” is the balance: the story doesn’t paint Max’s D.I.D. as a singular thing (ie: it’s not a curse, it’s not a blessing) but rather a facet of him that shapes his world, and gives him certain coping strategies that from the outside—especially that of his big brother—might appear one way when they’re in fact exactly that: coping strategies.

It’s this sense that there are strengths in Max’s plurality that I loved all the more for Fréchette’s not shying away from the less fortunate aspects: I had a good smile at the tummy-ache part of the story, where one of Max’s plurality binged on ice-cream, but another made sure Max knew they’d also taken antacid already. The ultimate resolution of Max’s journey in this story was both realistic and hopeful, and I think that’s a recurring tone touched on so well throughout this collection.

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