Elephant Beach used to sparkle. Before the boardwalks rotted and the hotels and mansions along the bay boarded up their windows, there were ballrooms, parties, dancing. Now, the town smells of cigarettes. The streets are filled with drugs. Haunting screams accompany moonlight as traumatized veterans relive pieces of Vietnam in their sleep.
Katie loves the beach and the town where she grew up, but she is also different. She paces herself, controls her emotions and drives her friends around town when they’re drunk. And her friends are as diverse as they come. Among them are a girl everyone wants to be friends with, a Hispanic track star and a one-legged drunk who, in more ways than one, has been marred by the war.
In an interwoven collection of short stories, we meet characters who struggle—with death, inequality, heartbreak—but somehow manage to take what they’re given, make the best of it and dream of better days ahead.
If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful, a debut short story collection by playwright Judy Chicurel, examines the everyday struggles of everyday people in 1970s America. It is a provocative story of unlikely friendships, unmatched compassion and learning to accept downtrodden people for who they are. With prose as clear as glass and words that carry even the most complicated of images, Chicurel reveals her characters’ best moments, their worst moments and moments of which they may only dream. The book reminds us that sometimes, something as simple as a beachfront view is enough to make something beautiful. And other times, the best things are in front of us without our knowing it.
Stephanie Kirkland is a full-time writer and editor living in Alabama, where she manages publications for her alma mater, The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences.