Maternal figures dominate collection
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.