Criticism & Features

Year 2020: 30 Books

If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan: 2020 Fiction Finalist

By Lori Feathers

If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan (W.W. Norton)

In Randall Kenan’s radiant story collection, If I Had Two Wings, residents in the fictional town of Tims Creek, North Carolina encounter the uncanny amidst their otherwise quotidian lives: a young mother opens her front door to find Howard Hughes; a church lady discovers she has magical powers following a parking lot encounter with a stranger; and a Manhattan tourist is befriended by Billy Idol after stumbling upon an impromptu gathering of the rock star’s fans. Kenan’s rural, Black Southerners are solid folks who work hard, love according to their best natures, and quietly nurture private joys and dreams. Incredible things happen to them, yet the power and resonance of their stories is revealed in how they absorb these incidents and reestablish their equanimity. Here is a writer who has invested himself in his Tims Creek people, whose writing vibrates with his knowingness of their faults and small graces, and who sparks a true connection and an appreciation of our common journey within the human condition.