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Introduction

(Short Stories for Students)

Kate Walbert's Where She Went is a collection of fourteen connected stories about a mother and a daughter, Marion and Rebecca, who are searching for a place where they can establish roots and find contentment. "Paris 1991" opens the collection. This story focuses on Rebecca's trip to Paris with her husband, Tom, where she hopes to conceive a baby. Rebecca had chosen Paris as the setting for becoming pregnant as the city is considered romantic, a city she has read about in books. She is not sure that this is the right time to get pregnant, but she determines that a child might provide her with the sense of fulfillment that she seeks.

Rebecca's imaginative visions of this exciting and romantic city, however, fade on its cold, rainy streets. There is little romance between her and her husband as they sit in cafés with nothing to say, feeling disconnected from the city as well as from each other. As Walbert arranges the imagistic scenes of the couple's few days in Paris, she conveys the tensions between romantic illusions and indifferent reality in this portrait of one woman's search for meaning.

Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

In the opening scene of "Paris 1991," Rebecca and her husband, Tom, fly into Paris at night where they hope to conceive a baby. They take a taxi to their room, which is so small that by stretching out his arms Tom can touch the walls on both sides of the bed. Rebecca leans out the window and listens to the street sounds.

They walk in the rain because "there is nothing else to do," talking little as they wait for Rebecca's temperature to rise, indicating that she is fertile. After wandering through the galleries in the Bibliotèque Nationale looking at manuscripts, they go into a café that looks romantic. Rebecca wonders if children can choose their parents. Her mother, Marion, died of cancer months ago, and Rebecca has this weird feeling of seeing her in the street or in doorways.

As they sit in the back of a café and eat, "they have nothing to say" to each other. After her mother died, Rebecca determined "to live in the moment. No regrets, no sorrow. Only the next day and the next." She decided to get pregnant, so she cut up her diaphragm. Tom wanted to talk about the decision to have children, but Rebecca insisted that they already had, and "anyway, there's no good time, really." When Tom asked if she was sure, she remained silent.

Back in the café, Rebecca shows Tom a postcard of devils that she has bought in the gift shop, concluding, "Marion would have loved this." She "would have thought it very cosmopolitan." As the day fades, Rebecca is overcome with melancholy, thinking of Marion.

That night Rebecca observes a woman lighting candles in a room across the street from the hotel. She tells Tom that she wants to go out, but he thinks it is too late. She chides him, noting that Parisians are having dinner and that they should adopt their customs while there. As she looks at the woman across the way, she imagines romantic details in the other woman's room. Again, she suggests to Tom how nice it would be to go out for a drink and some fruit and cheese, and he acquiesces.

In the morning, as they wait for a church to open, Rebecca asks Tom what they should name the baby. At first, he says that he does not know and that it is bad luck to choose names before becoming pregnant. Tom notes that it could take a year or perhaps never. When he will not talk to her about it anymore, she feels "rebuked." She also "feels dowdy, old," compared to stylish Parisian women. In response, she imagines herself making colorful new curtains for their apartment and thinks about how handsome Tom is. When he asks if she likes...

(The entire section is 991 words.)