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‘I Meant It Once’ by Kate Doyle ’12 has thematic depth, not breadth

Debut is preoccupied with themes of loss, uncertainty, healing, change

Kate Doyle ’12’s debut short story collection “I Meant It Once” is full of deliberate and thoughtful narratives, even when its characters are youthful. The collection of 15 short stories is occupied with the inextricability of uncertainty and hope.

Doyle’s protagonists — often women living in New York City in their 20s — reflect on their coming-of-age experiences, even as they continue to grow into adulthood.

Strong thematic strands are woven across the stories. The loss of once unquestioned relationships — high school friendships, college roommates, romances from summers spent abroad — peppers this collection.

A woman eats Chinese food in her bathroom, anticipating the end of her boyfriend’s patience for her irritable disposition. Another is preoccupied with the heart-shaped scones she was given before being broken up with. College dorms are entered and left behind. A trio of siblings learn their purposes are separate from each other’s and question how they can communally coexist. This trio is featured in three separate stories in the collection, giving readers the opportunity to follow their experiences and watch them change.


Each story raises broader questions of universal loss and healing. Perhaps because of these questions’ ubiquity, the stories become repetitive. The phrase “I remember” appears 55 separate times in the book, with the characters continuously reminiscing and rehashing. By the second half of the book, each chapter begins to bleed into the next. Only three of the stories explicitly connect with one another, but it seems that all the characters are somehow related: They live in similar timelines and emotional universes.

But despite the dailiness of the stories’ contents, Doyle cultivates them without mundanity. With a heightened realism, she develops images that stick in the mind after the book concludes.


Liliana Greyf

Liliana Greyf is a senior staff writer covering College Hill, Fox Point and the Jewelry District, and Brown's relationship with Providence. She is a sophomore studying Literary Arts and a proponent of most pickled vegetables.

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