Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Six literary works about deeply flawed mother figures

Mary Kuryla is the author of the novel Away to Stay and the short story collection Freak Weather, which was selected by Amy Hempel for the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Her stories have received a Pushcart Prize and the Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize and have appeared in The Paris Review, Conjunctions, Pleiades, Agni, Epoch, Strange Horizons, Greensboro Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. As a journalist, she has written for the Hollywood Reporter, Filmmaker Magazine, TheWrap.Com and The Washington Post. Also an award-winning filmmaker, she has taught at Emerson College, University of Southern California, and UCLA-Extension and is currently a visiting full-time screenwriting professor at Loyola Marymount University, School of Film and Television.

At Lit Hub Kuryla tagged "six works [that] resonate for me as nuanced characters who resist the bounds of traditional motherhood to lead unconventional lives," include:
Hannah Lillith Assadi, The Stars are Not Yet Bells

As Elle, the heroine of Hannah Lillith Assadi’s novel The Stars Are Not Yet Bells, attempts to report the story of her life in the face of encroaching dementia, the reader is lulled by melodious prose into the tale of her marriage to Simon on the remote island of Lyra. Fact and imagination, memory and forgetting supply tension to Elle’s rendering—and it quickly becomes evident that for Elle the true love of her life was not her husband but her “sham cousin” Gabriel, a singular lover lost to the sea.

If the narrator is understandably terrified of “losing all that makes me Elle: my facts,” it is the constant burn of a secret regarding her daughter that supplies present day dramatic tension in the novel. Zelda, whose name already blurs in Elle’s memory, vibrates with barely suppressed fury from her own flawed marriage. She picks fights with her father, calling him by his given name as if intuiting something not quite truthful in the origins of their bond. The shouting between husband and daughter is soon muffled by Elle ’s passionate recollections of Gabriel, whose ghostly presence in her mind seems more material than any fact Elle can summon. In Assadi’s rendering of dementia, we are rewarded with a privileged view of a mother’s secrets and passions simply by virtue of what insists in the mind and what muddles. Can we be surprised that motherhood and its demands, for all its insistence, winds up in the muddle?
Learn about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue