Ever since the raging of Clytemnestra, mothers have plagued literature with their love, loyalty, rivalries and betrayals. Here, in short-story form, the reader is taken through a Freudian passage of sorts. Stories begin umbilically with nervous mothers and newborn babies navigating physical and emotional symbiosis. They progress into adulthood - resentment, estrangement, rivalry, friendship, finally death. Throughout this sometimes painful, always moving, journey, the mother figure reigns, quietly omniscient.
A century of stories explore the maternal bond from Willa Cather to Colm Tibn and Amy Tan. Ron Carlson's "Blood and its Relationship to Water" is a counter-intuitive choice for an opening, capturing a father's flood of love for his adopted baby, Eddie, alongside the nervous expectations of his wife, Nancy. Lydia Davis's "What You Learn About the Baby" investigates the surreal first states of motherhood, with its loneliness and overwhelming frustrations.
Yet it is not the mother-baby connection that forms the heart of this collection - a timely publication for Mother's Day - but the far more complicated feelings of grown-up daughters and sons towards their ageing mothers. …