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The Viewing Room (Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction)

In The Viewing Room, two hospital chaplains console the living during the moments when they look upon their beloved dead for one last time in a large urban hospital in Los Angeles. But this room is also a character, linking stories together and bearing witness in chilling testimony of grief and wisdom. Henrietta and Maurice, the chaplains, are ministers who have lost their faith due to devastating personal tragedy. Still, they regain their hold on their own lives through their work, one death at a time.

Jacquelin Gorman lays bare nine parallel worlds of suffering in stories of unflinching detail, vividly told with heart, guts, and compassion. In these pages, the children are both murderers and victims, and the adults fare no better: a teenage father shakes his screaming baby to death; high school surfers kill the homeless for sport as a way of cleaning up their beaches; a Muslim basketball player readies her best friend for burial with a sacred ritual that reveals forbidden love; a scorned ex-wife leaves a message in permanent ink on the body of her betrayer; and a pet therapy dog’s unconditional love for a decaying body memorializes the spirit within.

This moving and unsettling collection of stories shines a piercing light on the dark corners of our modern world, illuminating necessary truths that convey a clearer and, undoubtedly, greater vision of humanity.

"The Stranger That Changed My Life: An Anonymous Kidney Donor" published in Reader's Digest

You never know when a chance encounter will transform you.

The Seeing Glass

When a rare optic condition strikes Jacquelin Gorman, colors one by one vanish from her spectrum, and her vision begins to falter. She finds herself in a race against the encroaching darkness, frantically studying family photos, the faces of her daughter and husband, and the geography of her home, committing them to the realm of memory. Once her world fades to black, she relives moments from her childhood--and memories of her autistic brother, Robin--in nightly Technicolor dreams. During her siege of blindness, Gorman finds innocence and courage in her brother's brief, tragic life--and a pure, unquestioning love that illuminates her darkness with the healing, eternal light of love.

"Ghost Dance" from The Viewing Room published in Slake: Los Angeles

It was late on Sunday night, Mother’s Day, which had already seemed endless, when Henrietta, the chaplain on call for the hospital, received a page to visit the patient in Room 204, where Birdie, an elderly Pima Indian woman in the end stages of diabetic kidney failure, took up both of the room’s beds. With her own 400-plus pounds and all the dialysis equipment, she needed a double room all to herself. She had been airlifted from her reservation in Arizona to receive a liver transplant at UCLA Medical Center. Shortly after she arrived, though, her condition deteriorated. She lost her place on the transplant list, and thus her last chance at life. Since Birdie wasn’t medically stable enough to be flown back home, she would have to die here in the hospital.

"Blood Rules" from The Viewing Room published in The Kenyon Review

“Blood Rules” is from Jacquelin Gorman’s debut collection, The Viewing Room (University of Georgia Press, 2013). The collection was Co-winner of the 2012 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and a National Book Award Nominee.

Gorman said this about her story: “Blood Rules” is the centerpiece story in the collection, the dramatic turning point of one hospital chaplain’s journey of faith. Maurice, a Christian minister, had lost his ordination, his license to lead a church, due to his unholy desire for bloody revenge for his mother’s murder. His soul is shattered by the rejection of his own congregation.