We recently published Hun Ohm’s lush “Last Tree Standing.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) I love how your work focuses on memory, the then vs. the now, how things have changed, how they haven’t, and how we remember them. In this story, we have a physical return to a place of memory — do you think things here are the way the narrator has remembered them?
Yes and no. As you’ve alluded to, memories can be curious creatures, the way they fade or sharpen, shift into so many shapes; on the other hand, physical places can be the very opposite – objective and familiar, largely unchanging. Or is it the reverse? Sometimes it’s hard to say. How do visits to old haunts release existing memories, or mold them? And how do our memories disturb the story embedded within a place, and lead to new tales far beyond the surface? This is a constant puzzle whose solution changes each time I look at it.
2) That ending image is such a powerful one and gives the reader a kind of unexpected moment: that in the narrator’s harsh childhood, there was this place of beauty and comfort that still remains. Do you think she can still find some peace there? Or is that peace only a lost part of her childhood?
I would like to imagine there is some place of peace to which she can return, one imbued with the unfiltered wonder and imagination of childhood that is not yet adulterated by decades of living. But at the same time, this child’s peace developed against a backdrop of adult shortcomings, rage and despondence, and to reach that place again, she has to once more experience those misguided cruelties and casual neglect. Departures and returns are on a loop, and nothing is completely lost or forgotten. Can there be solace in that?