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This story is perfectly heartbreaking, and it is because the issue at hand is so real and relatable and the events involved are not at all melodramatic. The story is so basic: a family member is being reunited with another family member after many years. And the events of the story are so simple: a man drives his wife’s relative home from the airport. But the brilliance behind this story is in the details, the characterization, and the inevitable yet surprising conclusion that is so relatable.

Sometimes stories lose me in a mess of plot twists and melodramatic events or things that I cannot relate to. In this story, however, the heartbreak comes from something as simple as memory loss in an older person. As a reader, I assumed some form of Alzheimer’s; although maybe I should not make assumptions, that disease is something I have had experience with, so I projected it onto the story. Anyway, this memory loss is something that many people have probably seen in older relatives, and it is something that I know many people fear might happen to themselves. This makes the story more real and more heartbreaking for the reader instead of “my entire family of aliens was murdered by pirates on Mars.” Instead of relying on that sort of plot to drive the story forward, this plot remains simple yet incredibly heartbreaking through common occurrences that are relatable.

It is also heartbreaking because of the development of the characters and the details that the author chooses to include. “He remembered his car, but he can’t remember his own granddaughter” (42) is a particularly painful line to read, but it would not have been possible without the details earlier in the story. The time that the narrator spends talking about cars with Mr. Chinh and observing the way that Mr. Chinh reacts to cars shows that Mr. Chinh not only remembers his cars but has an emotional connection to these machines that he does not have with his granddaughter. That is something the author could not have outright said, but through observation by the narrator and the details throughout the story this established by showing instead of telling.

The ending was set up very well because it was inevitable yet surprising. The second Mr. Chinh got off the plane with his nephew and then the same nephew got back on the plane immediately, the reader knew something was up. My one critique of this scene is that maybe it wasn’t subtle enough (the narrator really drove it home that he did not like the nephew, maybe a little too much) but other than that it set up very early on in the story that something was up with Mr. Chinh. At first I thought that it was the wrong man, that they had rescued someone else from Asia and we getting the wrong man. So I think this scene creates a lot of doubt in the reader’s mind while creating multiple possibilities for what that doubt could be centered around. The ending where Mr. Chinh does not remember his granddaughter is such an obvious solution to the doubt that was presented earlier.

The other “twist” of the ending was that the narrator gives his wife a ride on his back. Again, this is not surprising because it was talked about earlier in the story, but it was never super-obvious to the reader that it was going to happen. The ending was well-crafted by relating to the earlier story while having some twists of its own.

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