Several decades ago, I read a short story where a woman sees 17-year cicadas emerging. This leads her to recall several vignettes from her life, from the previous times she encountered 17-year cicadas — 17 years ago, 34 years ago, and 51 years ago, and this device allows the author to convey some of the main events in her life.

I feel fairly sure that the story was by an author I had heard of. I have a vague recollection that the author was Anne Tyler, but my memory could easily be tricking me.

I think I read the story in a magazine or newspaper, and not a book of short stories, but again my memory could be inaccurate.

What was this story?


1 Answer 1


I believe that this is probably A Woman Like a Fieldstone House, a short story by Anne Tyler that was published in 1989. Tyler donated the story to be published in a short story anthology, sold to raise money for a hunger relief charity called Save Our Strength (SOS). The story focuses on the passage of time punctuated by the seventeen year life cycle of locusts, showing how a a young woman develops over the 51 years covered in the story.

It is hard to find detailed descriptions online, but a description from Ann Hurford's PhD thesis "Destabilising boundaries and inhabiting thresholds eccentricity and liminality in Anne Tyler's writing" reads

The protagonist, Corey, as the title clearly indicates, is like a fieldstone house, for as her husband says: ‘it takes a while for the weather to get through to you’. This implies resilience rather than lack of insight and, like many of Tyler’s female characters, Corey protects and endures.

and describes the times at which the insects appear as:

Seven [sic]-year locusts appear at significant times in Corey’s life; at 12, approaching adolescence, at 29, as a young mother, at 46, in middle age when her children have grown and, at 63, an elderly widow.

("seven" is surely a mistake for "seventeen" - otherwise the numbers do not add up).

  • 1
    To further show that seven is a mistake,, there is no such thing as a seven-year locust in the U.S. We only have seventeen-year locusts and thirteen-year locusts.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Apr 11 at 23:24

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