Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Was Nearly Your Mother

Novelette by Ian Creasey

Marian's mother died when she was a little girl. She always wanted her to come back, and one day, with the help of alternate-universe-jumping technology, she has. But this is a mom who goes by "Della" and whose timeline diverged at the point where she decided to have an abortion.

At this point I was a bit worried the story was going to turn into some sort of weird anti-abortion screed, but that isn't where it goes at all. In fact, four separate times I thought I knew where this story was going, and Creasey never took the easy, obvious answer. Much like Marian, Ian Creasey likes to look deeper and find the less obvious truth, the harder answer.

The story consists of Marian's alternate universe not-mother trying to get her forgiveness that isn't really Marian's to give, trying to develop a too-quick relationship with her, and trying to generally use Marian to help herself feel better about a life where she made all the bad decisions. It turns out she wouldn't have even cared about the abortion, specifically, except that she ended up infertile due to other bad choices down the line and never having kids is just one of a life filled with regrets.

What I like most is that Marian is infinitely more mature than her fake mother, exactly in the way of friends of mine whose parents died when they were young. And yet, she is also very clearly a somewhat-shallow teenage girl. She just oozes 'teenager', but with that edge of harsh reality that comes from experiencing real loss. And Della doesn't have that.

Just as I expected a sappy ending, Creasey takes it in an entirely unexpected, and harsher direction. And just as I think I know where that new direction is going, he gives us the unexpected, quieter finale.

I really like Creasey's writing, and I like his willingness to go for the harsher reality rather than feel-good fluffiness. But for a story almost entirely about the dialogue between two characters, the dialogue felt a little stilted at times, beyond the awkwardness you'd expect from the situation. Other than that I have no real criticism. The ending seems a little bit unlikely, and a little bit too harsh, but that is essentially the theme of the story, and it's a good meditation on grief and learning to move on with life instead of becoming obsessive and crazy. I enjoyed it.

4 bad mothers out of 5.

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