Amanda Davis died too soon; that much we know for sure. As a reader new to her work, it is hard to come to her collection Circling the Drain without applying the knowledge of her untimely death, and without attaching some sort of prescience to her words.
In particular, one may feel this with the story “Crash” about a woman who is witness to a plane crash, juxtaposed with a devastating break up in her life and “Circling the Drain” about a young woman who has attempted suicide and is on the verge of death–this is not to say that Davis’s death was suicide because clearly it was not–but that she shows us at times a preoccupation with death (which I can appreciate having a similar obsession) and this preoccupation becomes a life force within some of the stories.
Here is from the end of “Circling the Drain”, for example:
Ellen feels ready when the angel comes again. She waits for him, listens for him, and when he finally brushes into the room, she thrusts a hand out to stop him and hisses with all her might. She hisses like a cat–it is all she can think to do–but her pure, icy fright makes her powerful, gives her the wisdom to act without question. Her heart thunders but her hand is steady.
The angel’s wings flap a little, birthing a gentle breeze that flickers the candlelight. Then the angel tilts his head at her and his features melt into Billy’s and Ellen begins to cry.
You bastard, she spits at him. You fucking bastard.
All at once the anger and the loneliness, the unstopped fury and rancid desolation comes rushing out, and Ellen weeps openly, her hands clenched in fists, her body choking out air.
And the angel just stands there, flapping his wings and staring, but he doesn’t touch her. He stays by the door.
So here the woman cheats death, fights back against it. Gets angry. Yet is it enough for her survival? We don’t know.
In the end, what you may find as a reader is that these stories are wonderful and quite sad. You will likely mourn for Davis and find yourself angry that we are not able to see how she would have grown as a storyteller. You also might find as you read these is that you forget about her untimely death and live, instead, in the world she has created here–a world of tremendous heart, and of brilliant mind.