The stories of Shapeshifting concern mothers. Mothers dealing with other mothers, mothers dealing with husbands/fathers, mothers nursing babies, mother-figures protecting animals. Author Michelle Ross takes a deep, multi-faceted look at how mothers view themselves, how they act in packs, how society views them. How does motherhood change us, as physical selves, sexual selves, emotional selves? How does it change our relationships with other women, with our own mothers, with our husbands? Knowing all that we know, how do we raise daughters?
In the opening story (one of my favs) “After Pangaea”, a mother camps out in a mini van with a baby for 5 nights to secure a spot for her son in a prestigious kindergarten. Meanwhile, her husband has started a parenting blog and achieved almost god-like status, as everyone is so impressed with his fatherly wisdom that no one notices how little of the practical end of things he keeps up. In the title piece “Shapeshifting,” a pregnant woman reckons with her relationship to her own mother, a woman with a wicked sense of humor and agoraphobia, whose pregnancy was the result of rape. In “Keeper Four,” the title character isn’t even a mother, but a sort of zookeeper in a futuristic research facility after most of the people and animals have died out.
Several stories deal with how mothers act in packs. How does a recovering alcoholic handle a mommy playdate? What about the dread PTA fundraising carnivals? Can mothers really be friends without being competitors? What about mothers and daughters-in-law? The stories present questions from all angles, and ask us to consider various responses.
Michelle Ross has a sly sense of humor and a wry imagination. I really enjoyed this collection of stories. It’s the sort of book to read and re-read, and loan out to your friends. Highly recommended.