A Gem - Couldn't Put it Down


On October 10, 1964, publication of "The Bonfire." The Saturday Evening Post. The Horse Knows the Way.

Kitty and Jerry Bull had a New York apartment and a house on the ocean in Southhampton. One night Jerry came home a little tight, went for a swim and drowned. There are the John O'Hara themes of adultery (Jerry was having and affair) and suicide (whether his death was accidental or suicidal).

Kitty, in her early thirties, was left with two small children and one baby.
This is a solid portrayal of a young widow struggling with how to re-enter the social world. She visits her doctor, a much older man:

   He put down his pencil and sat back in his chair, his hands folded across his chest and reminding her of a spiritual advisor. "Is there any chance that you might be getting married fairly soon?"
   "No," she said. "Is there any reason why I shouldn't?"
   "On the contrary, there is every reason why you should, from my point of view."
   "I haven't thought of it. Some day I suppose I will. Some day my prince will come." Suddenly, inexplicably, the sound of her words made her burst into tears. The doctor bent forward and gave her one of his large, hand-rolled handkerchiefs.

At the end of the story Kitty stood on the beach and saw people moving around a bonfire. She began walking toward the bonfire with thoughts of joining the group.
A few years ago one of my clients told me her book club members, after reading Appointment in Samarra, unanimously agreed that John O'Hara had really crawled into a woman's mind (Caroline's). I think he did the same here.
In the story, which takes place in 1964, the doctor offered Kitty a cigarette. This is exactly what happened to me at a 1960 doctor's visit.

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