In the tradition of Judy Budnitz and Aimee Bender, an offbeat debut collection of stories about the relationships between parents and children.
Ellen, the mother figure in the first story, “The Arrival,” is terminally ill and impatiently waiting out her final days on the Oregon shore. A young woman mysteriously turns up on the beach nearby needing shelter, and Ellen is able to relate to her in a way that she and her daughter haven’t in a long time. The parent is the lost character in the next story, “Lost and Found,” about a grown Arizona woman who finds her long-missing father in the desert, only to have him take up too much space—literally and figuratively—in her life. Just as she is beginning to build her life around him, including introducing him to a man who was once important to her, he disappears. In “The Egg Game,” a couple tries to take care of an egg as they would a child in order to determine whether they are ready for parenthood—and they soon learn that it isn’t quite as easy as they thought. Becca, protagonist of “The Tilt,” helps her boyfriend mourn his brother’s accidental death. And in the title story, a man and a woman tend an unusual garden—one where they plant their presumably deceased mothers, rather than vegetation, and continue to interact with them in their afterlives. The bizarre twists in Romm’s otherwise familiar stories require the reader to take leaps of faith, but the author handles the material delicately and matter-of-factly, making it believable.
Imaginative and insightful.