cover image Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction

. David R. Godine Publisher, $24.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-56792-114-4

Portraits of mothers as nurturing and needy, supportive and critical, sources of humor and wisdom, who, according to Oates's foreword, inspire in their daughters ""continual, frustrating speculation,"" give this collection ""an extraordinary range and depth of what the term mother can mean,"" says South African writer Berliner in her introduction. The editors have gathered 17 stories or excerpts by leading women writers, and by some who are less well known. Some pieces are familiar, like Isabel Allende's lush, evocative ""Wicked Girl,"" where 11-year-old Elena Mejias's sexual awakening is aroused by her mother's attractive boarder. While many selections have been culled from other works, it's satisfying to read a little-known gem from a well-known writer, like Margaret Atwood, whose ""Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother"" comes from her 1983 novel Bluebeard's Egg. Oates extracts from a recent novel typically spare, disturbing prose describing a suicidal mother picking up her daughter at school. Ursula Le Guin's vision of motherhood in the future, ""Solitude,"" is juxtaposed thematically with Lorrie Moore's reverse chronology in ""How to Talk to Your Mother."" Jamaica Kincaid, Edna O'Brien, Julia Alvarez, Gloria Naylor and Alice Walker also contribute their unique visions. Equally satisfying selections represent less prominent writers like Jane Shapiro, Katherine Dunn, Martha Soukup, Bette Greene and editor Berliner. Madness, murder, love and guilt are among the topics explored in stories that reveal not just the complex relationships between women and between generations, but also the intelligence and ingenuity of some of today's best writers of short fiction. (Sept.)