Ma­ter­nal fig­ures dom­i­nate col­lec­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - - BOOKS / FICTION - RE­VIEWED BY SHARON CHISVIN

IT isn’t sur­pris­ing that a short-story col­lec­tion en­ti­tled Mother­ish is filled with sto­ries about mothers, moth­er­ing and ma­ter­nal fig­ures.

Nor is it sur­pris­ing that the mothers (and the mother stand-ins) in this de­but col­lec­tion are not all the same.

They are old mothers and new mothers, mothers who are good enough and mothers who are not.

They are ab­sent mothers, dis­ap­pointed mothers, de­mand­ing mothers, dis­ap­prov­ing mothers, hope­ful mothers, gam­bling mothers, mothers-to-be and mothers in the form of sis­ters, grand­moth­ers and even fa­thers.

What the mothers and the mother fig­ures in these sto­ries all have in com­mon is that they were all metic­u­lously and thought­fully cre­ated by Laura Rock Gaughan

Gaughan was born and raised in the United States and now lives in Lake­field, Ont. Her short fic­tion has been pub­lished in a num­ber of col­lec­tions and mag­a­zines.

In fact, many of the 13 sto­ries in this fine de­but col­lec­tion pre­vi­ously ap­peared, some sev­eral years ago, in pub­li­ca­tions such as the Antigo­nish Re­view and the New Quar­terly.

A few of them, by the author’s own ad­mis­sion, were up­dated and re­vised specif­i­cally for this col­lec­tion so that they would bet­ter re­flect the times in which they are set, the times in which they were writ­ten or the way in which the times have changed.

Leap­ing Clear is one of the sto­ries set both in the past and the rel­a­tively re­cent present.

In this beau­ti­fully imag­ined story, an el­derly woman, aching with self­doubt and re­gret, rues her life and love choices.

Ly­ing in bed alone in the farm­house in which she lived most of her life, she dreams of a long-dead lover.

Although she had longed to see his face for years, “she could not have pre­dicted that some­day he’d ap­pear un­al­tered, undimmed in any as­pect, to gaze on a de­crepit ver­sion of her­self.”

Self-doubt is also in ev­i­dence in Good Enough Mothers, the first story in the col­lec­tion and ar­guably the book’s strong­est.

In this story, set firmly in the present, the un­named mother — a new par­ent, but an older one com­pared to the other women she en­coun­ters at the neigh­bour­hood play­ground — deeply loves her chil­dren and loves car­ing for them, but is none­the­less plagued by fa­tigue, in­se­cu­rity and rest­less­ness.

While she ob­serves these young mothers “knit and prac­tise yoga and mind­ful par­ent­ing and blog about it all,” she con­cedes, “I thought ma­tu­rity would give me an edge over the young moms, but I’m al­ways tired.”

Fa­tigue, both phys­i­cal and emo­tional, rears its head in many of the other short nar­ra­tives as well.

These in­clude Masters Swim ,a story about a de­jected and floun­der­ing young artist who finds so­lace in a swim­ming pool, and Flock of Chick­ens, a story about a young teacher who finds so­lace in a chicken coop.

The lat­ter is the fi­nal story in an eclec­tic col­lec­tion that is both ad­mirable and hon­est, and that skil­fully and soul­fully re­flects or­di­nary lives and or­di­nary hu­man in­ter­ac­tions amidst the con­stant search for hap­pi­ness and ful­fil­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.