A Mother’s Curse – A Short Story Review

Writers are cancelling appearances at conventions. The world is choosing to stay home it seems. Hopefully that means people are reading more.

The Short Story Intensive in-person portion was cancelled, though we are still going to continue on virtually. I am disappointed, of course. But in a way relieved that I won’t be exposed to illness. I still need to read all the short stories and I’m behind on that task. However, I am getting a definite sense of what I like and don’t like in short fiction, which is beneficial.

One of my favorite stories is “A Mother’s Curse” by Mette Ivie Harrison from the anthology All the Usual Santas. This anthology is quite diverse in the people and settings but this story is particularly interesting to me. The characters are all Mormons living in Utah. So the setting and the people are somewhat familiar to me. But at the same time they aren’t familiar at all.

I’ve worked for and alongside Mormons. I have Mormon friends. My mother goes every year to Salt Lake City for genealogical research. But the culture they live in remains mysterious to me. Perhaps non-Jews feel the same about us.

I was brought up to be polite around other people’s religions which meant not asking too many questions both out of courtesy and to avoid any attempts at conversion. It is as if there is a sheer curtain separating us from our neighbors and friends and I can only barely see through it. Which is why it was such a delight to spend time with the characters in this story.

The story begins with a mother shopping with her gay son for clothing he will wear on his Mormon mission. It is a substantial investment and along the way we learn something of the way mission trips work and the sacrifice it can be for families. Very quickly we find out that there is a thief working the neighborhood. That starts the external challenge.

The story explores many other things besides. What does it mean for people to be in a community? What about pride, good or bad? How do you assess the moral course and how to balance mercy and justice? It’s an excellent story and an example of what #OwnVoices can be at its best. This is an intimate glimpse inside a community and its drawn with compassion for all the characters.

I’m excited to read her novels, but that will have to wait until my focus on short stories ends in May.

I hope you are reading excellent stories from diverse authors. There is nothing better than meeting new friends inside the pages of a book. Be well, friends!

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