Laura Bern­stein-mach­lay

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - SU­SAN WAG­GONER

Son­der Press (MAY) Soft­cover $14.95 (178pp) 978-0-9997501-0-0

Laura Bern­stein-mach­lay is a na­tive of Detroit who, after decades away, re­turned to her home to find it hov­er­ing on the brink of mas­sive change. The city, past and present, is the back­drop for her es­says.

Most of the es­says are per­sonal rem­i­nis­cences: the free­dom of be­ing young in the 1970s and 1980s; grow­ing up in a close-knit Jewish fam­ily; thoughts on be­ing a grand­daugh­ter, a daugh­ter, and a mother.

“Weather” opens with two mem­ory frag­ments of rain in the 1990s, then shifts far­ther back to a child­hood rec­ol­lec­tion of wor­ry­ing over her mother’s fail­ure to ar­rive home in a hor­rific storm. The con­clu­sion, which por­trays a child’s sweep­ing sense of re­lief when her mother be­lat­edly ap­pears, is the heart of the es­say.

Detroit is the pres­ence in back­ground. When it steps onto the stage, its glim­mer is elec­tric, mak­ing you want to hear more, see more, go there.

Set­ups are overly long, though, and in­con­se­quen­tial de­tails tend to over­whelm the core ma­te­rial. One trail of thought leads to an­other be­fore the first is fully de­vel­oped. Fre­quent jumps back and forth in time, abrupt shifts in lo­cale, and time spent in­tro­duc­ing walk-on char­ac­ters at the cost of de­vel­op­ing re­cur­rent ones add to a sense of missed con­nec­tions.

The col­lec­tion’s per­sonal reflections on chil­dren and fam­ily are fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory; it’s through the brav­ery of its con­cept—go­ing back to the place where you grew up to plant your flag in un­cer­tain turf—that the book most de­liv­ers. Poised be­tween sink­ing back into na­ture and leaping for­ward to re­vival, flash­ing glimpses of Detroit stand out.

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