cover image The Mother Who Stayed: Stories

The Mother Who Stayed: Stories

Laura Furman, Free Press, $15 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4391-9465-2

A nicely hewn collection of new stories by PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories series editor Furman (The Glass House) pursues three family cycles with a hard focus on the mothers. The first, most engaging trio begins with "The Eye," an enchanted summer grouping of three New York families in the country during the 1950s and the looming pall of their estrangement. Rachel, a youngest daughter, is devastated by the untimely death of her mother in "The Hospital Room." In "The Thief" Rachel deals with her friend, Caitlin, a wily girl who lets Rachel be accused of stealing a pearl necklace belonging to Caitlin's mother. The second trio involves a famous novelist and poet with an importunate, unsympathetic nature; her biographer, who tries to dig up the truth about her giving her daughter up for adoption; and the now grown-up daughter who meets the dying grande dame for the first time. The title story, which closes the final trio, finds a silver-headed widow—the product of a motherless home—employing as strength and solace the diaries of a late-19th-century woman who bore 16 children and devoted her life to caring for them. Furman's prose ambles sinuously, in unexpected directions, and has a quiet, sure effect. (Feb.)