In case you’re wondering, I hate you.”
“Yes, but she used to love me.
Here is book #2 in the Net Galley Knock Down Challenge done and dusted! Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this collection of stories.
This 11-story collection is about varied mother & child relationships. Ah, yes, we all have a mother, and some of us have a daughter or daughters. It is this relationship between a mother and a daughter that can range in such massive complexity you can imagine walking through a mine field to be a walk through a patch of daisies instead of the roads travelled between a mother and daughter.
This collection of stories examines many of the varied and wide-ranging types of women that become mothers, it ranges from the trepidation of first learning of pregnancy and the decisions to face about keeping or letting go of a child to coping with brand new motherhood. Primarily, it is a suite of stories centered around two characters, Ruby and her daughter Nora.
In Shout Her Lovely Name, a mother and daughter are at war over food. The food her daughter will no longer eat. The story takes place over the course of a year with the mother trying to help her daughter overcome anorexia, or disordered eating.
Ruby Jewel is the second in the series and centres around a father and daughter drinking at the bar upon her return from college. They are prolonging their trip home to see her mother, and often talk of her in the past tense. Both Ruby and her father are alcoholics and her mother is a saddened resigned woman. This story does not focus so much on the mother as much however. My guess is that it is more about the mother as a background, resigned role.
Alone as She Felt All Day: Can’t say I cared much for this story at all. It’s about Ruby, who awaits confirmation of her pregnancy in the doctor’s office and spends the rest of her days finding ways to rid herself of it.
Free to a Good Home: This one takes up after Ruby has told the boyfriend, Marco, of their “unfortunate circumstances” (as written). Ruby has the baby early and is torn and pushed in many directions towards giving her daughter up for adoption (Marco’s choice, and would mean Marco stays) or leaving Marco and raising the baby alone with family. With $25 left and a note of apology, Ruby names her daughter Nora and takes the latter choice.
This is So Not Me: This story was quite good and amusing! One of my favourites in the collection. A tale of a couple with a newborn dealing with a long flight delay and the cranky passengers it invokes along with other cauterwaling babies on board. It is also about the woman and her newborn “progeny” and how this life came to be with her professor, now husband, whom is 25 years older than her.
Manx: Here we find ourselves further along in life with Ruby and her daughter, Nora. Manx is a type of cat that is naturally mutated by having a shortened or no tail, and Ruby has brought one home for Nora hoping it may improve her life some. In this story we see how other’s view Nora as a mother and the hardscrabble life she has been living and how the cat, Phil Donahue, becomes an example or metaphor I suppose of the relationship between Nora and her mother Ruby.
Take Your Daughter to Work: Is another story about Nora and Ruby. Basically Ruby is a train-wreck and I’m wondering if the author is subtlety suggesting that those many years ago that the boyfriend Marco was right in saying Ruby should have given Nora up for adoption to a more stable family. Or is the author perhaps suggesting that this is their particular family arrangement and one cannot judge who’s a better or more fit person to be a mother? Here we see Nora coming to age and trying to find herself after moving to so many different schools and adapting to her mother’s haphazard lifestyle.
A Whole Weekend of My Life: Here, Nora meets her father (Marco) for the first time in her fourteen years of life. Nora stands in the airport staring at the man that is her father and realizes that when Ruby decided to keep her, this is what she lost. And this is the man that Nora lost as well, that her life wasn’t full, “it had plenty of room for lawn mowers, half sisters and a dad.” This was a very sad story, as Nora must realize that her father, while open to meeting her, has and will not include her in his life – she will remain a secret.
Plum Tree: We see the unfortunate upbringing that has defined Nora in this story. Nora is hanging out with the “wrong crowd” and doing drugs and skipping school. Nora is in the mindset that she is rebelling against Ruby, that she is nothing like her mother and she can make her own new and unique mistakes.
Rate my Life: Ugh, by this point I’m just weary and fed up with the train wreck Nora’s life is becoming as well.
Developmental Blah Blah: Finally, a story that did not feature the Ruby & Nora Show but again, by this point I was so detached from these stories I didn’t read it.
This collection simply did not appeal to me. Since many in this collection centred around Ruby and Nora, I found myself hyper-judgemental about Ruby as she is a mere flake and a floozy who bounces from man to man like she’s changing underwear. She is/was neither mature or stable enough to raise her daughter in an environment or lifestyle one would deem suitable. Perhaps I am being overly judgemental and critical here, but the stories and sad, pathetic lives they lived did not connect with me.
3 stars overall I suppose for Shout Her Lovely Name.
If you wish to read two wonderful collections of short stories, I highly encourage you to pick these two: