Lyrical stories arranged around themes of birth, gestation, conception and love—yes, in that order.
“Poppyseed,” from the section entitled Birth, presents a dual narrative in which a father gives us a relatively objective perspective and a mother a far more subjective one on their severely incapacitated daughter, Poppy. A doctor has proposed using Poppy as a surgical experiment, and his puffed-up view of himself reduces her status to that of a laboratory animal, in contrast to the heartbreaking surge of love the parents experience. “Chest of Drawers” takes us into the realm of the surreal, for here, the husband of a pregnant woman does indeed find little drawers growing in his chest, and in them, he begins to carry small items (such as his wife’s lipstick) as well as small dolls that distortedly mirror his wife’s condition. In “Atria,” Hazel Whiting loses her virginity to Johnny, a clerk at the 7-Eleven, and shortly thereafter is raped by another man. When she becomes pregnant, her status increases when people believe she’s carrying the child of a rapist even though Johnny is the father. Buck, a girl in “Catch and Release,” is a talented athlete who wants to grow up to be a baseball player. Actually named after first lady Mamie Eisenhower, Buck loves her nickname but never discovers its sordid origin—when her wayward father, Pops, found out Buck’s mother was pregnant with her, he contemptuously threw a dollar bill on the bed, calling out “This is my contribution! Call that baby Buck, ’cause that’s all he’s worth!’ "
Ausubel has a gift of language so rich that even the most mundane events are invested with poetry, and many of her characters are in need of all the poetry they can muster.