Short story: “Lost among the Hedgerows”

by look i have opinions

“Lost among the Hedgerows,” by Jeffrey N. Johnson

From the Sewanee Review, Volume CXIX, Number 4 (Fall 2011); a PDF excerpt is available

About 4550 words*

Plot spoilers for this story ahead.

I’ve read three of the four stories in this issue. So far I like this one the best. (The editors must have liked it too, since they gave it their annual fiction prize.) It’s about a home renovator whose house is getting foreclosed on—his and his wife’s first home, which they’ve spent five years living in, improving, and making their own. While his wife finds a temporary place to stay, the main character spends his days painting wealthier people’s homes, his nights dabbling in DIY sabotage. Honestly, the sabotage was the first thing that caught my eye (I like stories about malicious property destruction); the second thing was the narrator’s opening comments about doors. He claims he always works on a home’s main door before anything else, as “a play on sentimentality” to win over his clients. It struck me as interesting that he would attribute the appeal of a beautiful door to sentimentality instead of to its function—perhaps a form of emotional self-defense.

*The Sewanee Review prints thirty-nine lines to a page, the excerpt I picked averaged 9.2 words per line, the story runs about 12 2/3 pages, and I rounded to the nearest fifty. I don’t know how people normally estimate these things.