What’s The Ceiling all about?:
In the O. Henry Award winning “The Ceiling,” a man’s marriage begins to disintegrate after the sky starts slowly descending.
What did I think?:
After finishing this beautiful and powerful short story, I agree wholeheartedly that it deserved an award and is probably my favourite story in this collection so far. It all begins on a clear blue day where our narrator is relaxing in his garden with friends at the birthday party of his son, Joshua. He remembers this day so clearly for two reasons – one, that it was the first time he noticed something not quite right about the sky and two, he realises that something is wrong with his wife when she utters the dramatic statement: “My life is a mess.” Generally, the town is quite perplexed about what exactly is wrong with the sky. It appears at first as a small opening which seems to increase in size, continually pushing down towards the ground until even our reliable gravity is compromised. Meanwhile, Melissa, our narrator’s wife is becoming increasingly more distant and uncommunicative:
“It was clear to me at such times that she had taken herself elsewhere, that she had constructed a shelter from the wood and clay and stone of her most intimate thoughts and stepped inside, shutting the door. The only question was whether the person I saw tinkering at the window was opening the latches or sealing the cracks.”
Despite his worries about his wife and the presence of the ever descending “ceiling,” (coined by the newspapers) our narrator tries to lead as normal a life as possible for his son. He takes him to the library for a reading session where, ominously, the story of the day is Chicken Little, which tells of a chicken that throws his small town into panic after insisting that the sky is falling down. He also looks at his son’s homework, an essay Joshua has written which confirms something that he fears he already knew, in that all the birds and migrating insects have disappeared. As the ceiling continues to descend, knocking down energy pylons, trees and eventually houses, our narrator’s marriage is in complete turmoil and it looks like life as we know it is doomed.
This short story was such a pleasure to read, buoyed by Kevin Brockmeier’s wonderful way with language and sentences that are so delicious they definitely deserve a second read. I loved the way that he combined the everyday problems of the world (in this case, the disintegration of a marriage) with something entirely out-worldly and deep within the realms of science fiction i.e. a potentially apocalyptic ceiling descending from the sky. At times, I felt slightly frustrated with our narrator as I found him quite naive and wished he would open his eyes to what was happening within his marriage. However, I like to think of this heightened emotion within myself as the sign of a good story and I can assure you all that the author definitely reeled me in with this offering. Have you read it? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Keeping Watch Over The Sheep by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You