While it’s not as graceful as “Family Values,” “Homecoming at the Borderlands Café,” by Carole McDonnell manages to create a world while the narrator, Mike, is sitting in the café eating dinner with his parents. It’s so static, most of the story is in his thoughts. But it takes place in a world where it’s a big deal when an interracial couple walk into the café.
The white man turns out to be someone Mike vaguely knows as Bradley Garrett, who went to school with his cousins. Brad’s black wife is filled with hate and fear at being in this place. Which is justified, as we are in a North America divided between the Confederacy and Columbia.
The thoughtless comments of Mike’s mother complements Mike’s congratulating his country for still teaching Black History Month. Just as the reader gets to self-congratulatory thoughts of “Thank God we aren’t that bad!” you find out that in Columbia, Brad is considered too conservative because he believes in God and therefore the state is going to take their child away.
Mike is sympathetic to Brad and his wife because he himself loves a Shoshone woman called Nonna. Mike’s parents forbade him to marry her, but Brad’s example inspires him. And then the story ends, just before the truly serious consequences of Mike’s decision can happen.
It’s frustrating enough to stop at the end of the beginning of what could be a great novel of heartbreak, but it may be just as well. It’s so irritating the way liberal misuse of the word “liberal” characterizes the Columbian half of North America. Perhaps because we can only view it through Mike’s beliefs, the picture you receive of the “liberals” is not so much the People’s Republik of Cambridge, as straight out Soviet Russia. As in Godless, Bible-hating, thought-controlling, baby-stealing Communists. It’s really hard to believe in such a cartoon when Mike and the people around him are so believable, even familiar.
So this story raises a lot of hackles, which is probably why it’s one of those stories that stick with you.