Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

mothersBonnie Jo Campbell came on my radar about four years ago when I read her novel Once upon a River, which I liked very much.  It had a scrappy teenage protagonist that any post-Winter’s Bone reader would root for.  Campbell also writes short stories, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is her latest collection of these.

Campbell’s characters live in a world of make-do, of crappy jobs and too many kids and not enough understanding, not to mention cheating husbands.  She tells of a pregnant fretting young woman, unsure of the good-natured jabs she gets during her baby shower, as she and her guests ride out a tornado threat in a storm cellar; a mother who is overly conscious that her thirteen-year-old daughter is growing up, and all too quickly; a tender-hearted hospital worker who gets a gift from a homeless man at the turn of the millennium; and a forty-something adjunct faculty instructor who is unsure of her own pregnancy as she comes to grips with her daughter’s own child-to-be.  The last story of the batch is maybe the funniest and slyest – a sixty-three year old grandmother finds an unexpected release amidst the drudgery of grandkids and farming during an unusually long heat wave.

These are just a fraction of this collection.  Campbell writes poetically and unflinchingly about emotions and thoughts gone wild.  Her stories aren’t neat and perfect; neither are her characters.  There’s lots of hard feelings here, from people that have had it hard.

She’s definitely worth a read.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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