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Amy Hempel’s story, “Today Will Be a Quiet Day,” uses a minimalist writing style, similar to one of her other stories that she wrote, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried.”  She provides sparse details about the setting of the story, and does not even properly name her characters, but readers are still provided with enough details to glean meaning from the text. 

We can assume that the parents in this story are no longer together; in the beginning of the story, it is mention that the father “just want[s] to know how [his kids are], is all.”  This suggests that the father and children do not get to see each other very often, making a separated family a plausible explanation.  Through her depiction of a family that is separated in some way, Amy Hempel creates a story that is suffused with nostalgia; through reminiscences about past events (like the death of the family dog, Homer) to thoughts about the future (like the daughter’s Driver’s Ed class) it is clear that the family was close at one point, and longs to be able to continue that closeness even in their divided situation.

Amy Hempel’s decision to write about a family with separated parents gave the story a sense of meaning that gave each event a sort of bittersweet joy, because readers know that this family does not have the privilege of enjoying this closeness every day.

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