cover image My Mother Never Dies: Stories

My Mother Never Dies: Stories

Claire Castillon, , trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $21 (163pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101426-2

Punchy, brief takes on complicated mother-daughter relationships dominate French novelist Castillon's tantalizing English-language debut. A daughter cares for her cancer-stricken mother in “A Parka and Some Fur-lined Boots,” breeding resentment and rage-driven guilt (“She has no idea how much she irritates me with her cancer,” snaps the daughter), while in “There's a Pill for That,” a demonic mother overmedicates her helpless child. Another mentally unbalanced mother in “Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy” indulges in just that. Men in these breezy takes frequently wreak havoc on the daughter-mother relationship: the young mentally handicapped narrator of “Knots and Nuts” overhears her mother making plans to run away with her lover and delivers a terrible punishment; in “Punching Bag,” the divorce of her parents turns an angry teenager into a “war machine.” Occasionally, true warmth emerges, as in “Shame,” when a high schooler recognizes her mother's humanity. Sharp, perceptive and edgy, these stories take the reader to some profoundly uncomfortable places. (Feb.)