Volunteer Chris Koslowski is secretly really good at flag football. We’ve seen him play, and let us tell you: He runs the best hitch-and-go we’ve ever seen, and dude can catch, too—he has hands like Spiderman, only stickier. Rumor has it, in fact, that Chris turned down the chance to be Mark Wahlberg’s body double in Invincible to pursue a graduate degree in creative writing and join our staff of volunteers here at CR. And we’re very happy to have him—he’s a sharp evaluator of manuscripts and a tireless applier of postcard labels. He chest-bumps us every time we make a good copy edit, which hurt at first, but now that we come to work wearing protective padding, we kind of like it.
Here’s Chris on one of the stories from our upcoming issue:
Chris Koslowski: I’ve had more than a few religious figures in my life tell me that God does indeed answer every prayer, just not always in the way we expect. In Scott Kaukonen’s “Where Your God Ends and My God Begins,” a prayer is answered, but the liberty God (or fate, or whatever chaotic principle governs this pale blue marble of ours) takes in his/her reply would make even a holy man squirm.
After years of doctor visits, false hope, and prayer so intense that two knee-shaped spots are clearly worn into the carpet at the foot of her bed, Maggie, an American missionary worker in Uganda, discovers she is pregnant. Her husband, Elliot, is waiting in the States for the end of his wife’s long absence. Her lover, Andrew, who manages the field clinic for which Maggie volunteers, is a Catholic priest.
Kaukonen recognizes that Maggie’s story has little room for certainty. Is her pregnancy a curse or a blessing? A sin or a miracle? Would Elliot, if he had a say, welcome or condemn the product of his wife’s infidelity? Kaukonen expertly blurs the boundaries of right and wrong, choice and fate, and even Maggie’s own sense of logic. To counter the karmic debt accrued through the sin of her child’s conception, Maggie turns to another priest, the physically imposing yet gentle Marcus, who risks his reputation to protect her with a mysterious ritual that smacks of the supernatural. Over the course of their weekly meetings, the weave of contradictions that defines this story grows more intricate. Is Marcus pious or pagan? Wise or wicked?
Kaukonen keeps readers moving through his layered narrative with near perfect expositional timing. The moment information feels needed, Kaukonen provides it while subtly assembling his next mystery and hinting at turns far down the road. He builds to a compelling series of reveals which prove that ambiguity can be more satisfying than truth, and that a successful twist isn’t a twist at all, but the completion of an arc the reader had yet to fully understand. Most impressive of all, “Where Your God Ends and My God Begins” resists classification. Is it a domestic drama set half a world away? A slow-burning, escalating thriller with a roller coaster’s worth of stomach-wrenching turns and drops? The story combines elements we’ve all seen into something that’s tough to put a finger on. When I’m finished, I want to read it again. And that’s why I like it.