Exploring the Opposite Viewpoint in Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

By Rileigh Hartman


 Lily King’s short story collection, Five Tuesdays in Winter, preserves an ever-constant pull towards love through affliction and desire. The second story of the collection, which the book is named after, details the love a bookseller has for his employee. Described as reticent by his preteen daughter, Mitchell’s longing for Kate is thoughtfully disguised through his silence. However, in the end, there is a twist; she had been falling for him too. Mitchell thought his feelings were unrequited until she caressed his cheek, the fullness in his chest reason enough to lean in. But now, the story begs the question of how it would read if Kate was the focus instead. To answer this (and nudge the irony), I wanted to use her viewpoint to explore the possibilities of who Kate may be and what she may have felt during the story.

~ ~ ~

  Kate followed Lincoln to Portland. She was estranged in their shared apartment; coasters under her water glass, clothes still tucked in boxes— she never planned to stay. But she didn’t like to think of herself as someone who wouldn’t find love, that she was incapable of it. She could charm anyone, but it always led to them misplacing her, forcing her into boxes she didn’t check. Sometimes, she believed that if she tried to fit where people thought she should go, she’d find love there. Or if she went against fitting in, then not finding love was more intentional than contingent. The only time Kate felt sheltered was between book covers.

  When Paula, Mitchell’s daughter, complained about her Spanish teacher one Saturday afternoon, Kate offered to help. If she was honest with herself, speaking Spanish again would only stir up memories of Peru she didn’t want to revisit. Maine was nice anyway: decent views and handsome company. Later on the first Tuesday evening, it took her longer to pick out an outfit. The bookstore was home by then, and she treated it as such in her secondhand jeans. But it felt different to be going into Mitchell’s home— she wanted to look like she wouldn’t fit. Then Mitchell stared at her for a moment longer than usual when he opened the door, and she was suddenly seamless; settled in his gaze as she remembered what it felt like to be wanted somewhere. During her time with Paula, Kate wanted to ask if Mitchell had seen other women since his wife left, but he didn’t seem like the type of person who’d try to find love twice.

  At Westy’s, Kate always searched for the Mitchell-renowned mushroom soup after he mentioned it to her, and the glimmer in his eyes appeared. It had been years since he’d seen it, but she still enjoyed their inside joke: fitting into a space she didn’t know could exist. Kate couldn’t bring herself to smother her smile when she saw Mushroom Soup written on the menu. As she opened the door to the bookstore, she couldn’t tell what she was more excited for: the soup or the look on Mitchell’s face when she offered it to him. Of course, the latter won. When Mitchell brought up Mrs. White and Kate asked what she was like, he went quiet. But Kate didn’t disrupt his silence; she liked it. There was no place to fit in or out of. He said that she was like her. Even without knowing Mrs. White, Kate felt like she and Mitchell could love each other in a way that only they could understand.

  Paula asked her to stay for dinner on the fifth Tuesday— Valentine’s Day. She’d wanted to decline but it sounded better than going to the mall again, the reminder of how alone she was. Upon arrival, Kate handed Mitchell a small chocolate box, noticing how his eyes stayed trained on the gift instead of her. Time never caught up to when Mitchell knocked on the door to tell them dinner was ready and Paula stood abruptly, leaving a red stain on her quilt. Kate ran to the local pharmacy, never feeling more out of place with her lack of a motherly touch. Yet, she’d grown to realize that being around Paula and Mitchell was like reading her favorite book for the first time again. So, she ran back to the house.

  The quilt was tucked in Mitchell’s hands when she left Paula’s room. They walked to the laundry room, and when they faced each other after washing the quilt, the space between them felt smaller. Mitchell asked why the drunk man last week told them they have the same eyes. It wasn’t true— Mitchell had green eyes, she had brown. But she knew what the man saw. He was fearful that she would leave but loved her anyway; she was fearful that he’d misplace her but desired him regardless. Kate remembered the word Paula used for him— reticent— but could only think of herself, which spurred her fingertips to caress his cheek. He pulled her closer, and Kate thought about how she would never leave his side as she leaned in with him.

~ ~ ~

   Five Tuesdays in Winter follows two complex individuals who have quietly chosen each other. The significance and irony of their relationship is how they were both reticent but we, the reader, only received one side of their story; we were only seeing Mitchell’s world sculpt around Kate. In the rewrite above, her character is translated from the specks we’re given of her through Mitchell’s point of view. Kate is subjective, yet we’re given just enough information about her that it becomes clear she shouldn’t be left in the reader’s peripheral. As Mitchell demonstrated, being reticent doesn’t mean untroubled. 

  Lily King’s collection carries the theme of only sharing one side of a love story. While she accomplishes making her reader ponder the romantic probabilities for each story, it leaves little room for discovering the unacknowledged character’s perspective. In Five Tuesdays in Winter, the surprise ending gnaws at the unsettled relationship between Kate and Mitchell, making it feel unfinished. But letting the reader know what Kate was going through and what she could have been thinking about strengthens their bond and puts their relationship on more solid ground, creating a well-rounded love story and breathing life into her love for Mitchell.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email