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by Natalie Serber

Pub Date: June 26th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-63452-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

A debut collection of elegant and largely intertwined short stories about mothers and daughters.

The collection starts with Serber’s most startling piece, which inspired the title of the collection. Written in first-person, the story is a stream-of-consciousness dive into a mother’s terrifying worry for her teenage daughter, who is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder. She, who remains unnamed, is at the end of her rope, calling her husband as he prepares for a business trip. “Don’t care. Scream into the phone. Imagine your tinny, bitchy voice leaking around his ear while men holding lattes, women with Coach briefcases, students and grandmas try not to look at his worn face,” Serber writes. With the next story, the author launches a series of interconnected tales about a single mother and her daughter that very nearly make up a novel of their own. In the first, “Ruby Jewel,” we meet a college girl who has returned home to the Gulf Coast to visit her whiskey-soaked father and emotionally distant mother. In the next, “Alone as She Felt All Day,” Ruby finds that the delicious liaisons she’s been enjoying with a boy named Marco have left her pregnant. Marco leaves. The girl, named Nora, grows up and the conflicts between Nora and her mother ebb and flow like the tides, with Serber zeroing in on painful episodes along the way. There’s little sweetness to be had in Serber’s stories, laden with the sharpness of realism, but their emotional depths are memorable.

A terrific introduction to Serber’s gifts, and hopefully a preview of good things to come.