A sprawling cast of women is submerged in suffering in Grow’s luminous and grim debut collection.
Like the watery bodies it evokes, the prose in these stories is translucent and sparkling. Water imagery—as a source of buoyancy, protection, fear, and comfort—abounds. “I come up for a quick breath and dive back under because he’s starting to say the thing again,” says the protagonist of “Stray.” “I love the thick silence water makes so sounds can’t touch me. It’s an escape I learned as a child.” Each story is an exploration of motherhood, wifehood, daughterhood, or neighborhood: the relationships that make up and strangle the characters, who are all, in their own ways, drowning. A housewife tries to come to grips with the inconsequentiality of her life in the title story. In “Small Deaths,” a daughter must inch her mother’s body across a bedroom floor after her protracted illness and death. In “Still at War,” a veteran’s wife oversees his interview by a local churchgoer and hovers at the edge of revealing their shared secret—that he’s been utterly undone by his service. A woman tries to walk away from her unfaithful husband but is repeatedly foiled by odd situations in “OK, Goodbye.” One story in particular rises above the others: “What Girls Leave Behind,” in which an alcoholic mother loses her young girls. This story climbs above the fog of sorrow that envelops the rest of the collection. Its raw immediacy is equal parts story and slice of pain and will leave you gasping. This is, perhaps, the only difficulty of this collection: the darkness at times feels overwhelming, and there is little relief until the book is over.
A sorrowful, fully felt collection that will drag you under.