Thursday, 15 March 2012

The lives of mothers

I just noticed that The Guardian are running a series of podcasts featuring short stories about motherhood to mark Mother's Day this Sunday (March 18). The first is Tessa Hadley reading Elizabeth Bowen's story 'Coming Home' - a story I'm not familiar with myself but which I'm looking forward to listening to. This got me thinking about which one I'd choose should such a situation ever arise and the story that instantly sprung to mind was 'Snow Angel' by American writer Stephanie Vaughn. I first read this a couple of years ago after buying Vaughn's collection 'Able Baker Charlie Dog' (the book has just been reissued under its alternative title of 'Sweet Talk' and is well worth getting hold of).

In the story we get a glimpse into the life of a young mother, Marguerite, who is at home with two noisy children while her husband becomes stranded after his car breaks down. As far as plot goes, nothing much happens. We just learn that Marguerite is hiding in the closet to get some peace and quiet, then that she takes a couple of phone calls from her husband and later that she plays games with her children. But, as with all the best short stories, these little events tell us so much about Marguerite's life - her loneliness, her parental frustrations and also how invisible she feels as a human being. "If I had somebody to tell these things to, I think I could make them into good stories", she says to herself, after her husband fails to ask how her day has gone. A sentiment which could well resonate with mothers everywhere.

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