This memoir, a collection of 25 short essays, looks back on a Northern California woman’s life as an activist, writer, wife, and mother.
As Stock (Three Tales From the Archives of Love, 2018, etc.) explains in an epilogue dated Valentine’s Day 2018, the pieces assembled here were written 32 years ago, in the mid-1980s. The author refers to herself and others only by initials. For example, she is Y; her husband M; their elder daughter R; middle child A, a girl; and their youngest, a boy, B. Each chapter is a stand-alone essay on topics that include Stock’s anguish about nuclear testing and the Chernobyl disaster; family memories and events; dreams; moments of reflection; and nature. Many chapters begin with (and are punctuated by) the time of day, as the author ranges between present-day events and recollections of the past. Her close observation of everyday life brings a poetic quality to the essays. The voice is lyrical and the overall tone poignant, with even moments of joy often being threaded through with an awareness of complicity in and responsibility to stand against the world’s injustices. In an essay about Memorial Day and the Vietnam War, for example, Stock recalls the birth of her son and how the words “It’s a boy” signified “the moment I became a conscious political being.” Years later, seeing the movie Platoon with her son, he jerks at the violence onscreen; she writes, “If I am weeping, it is only because I am alive.” On a few occasions, the tone can become overwrought; the opening piece, in particular, on the Hiroshima bombing, uncomfortably over-identifies the narrator, a Marin County woman married to a surgeon, with the Japanese victims. She speaks in their voice—“I am the prolonged taste of tortured matter”—and performs activities (including driving her Volvo, swimming laps, and crossing the street) “in memory of the bombing of Hiroshima.” But the author’s thoughtfulness usually prevents didacticism.
A vivid and emotionally felt account of full engagement with the world.