posted by Amy

Getting a Life: Stories by British writer Helen Simpson is a collection of nine interrelated stories about mothers, including a mother home with small children, a mother with four kids, a challenging career, and a nanny, and mothers as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl.

One of my favorite stories, "Cafe Society," begins, "Two shattered women and a bright-eyed child have just sat down at the window table in the cafe. Both women hope to talk, for their minds to meet; at the same time they are aware that the odds against this happening are about fifty to one. Still they have decided to back that dark horse Intimacy, somewhere out there muffledly galloping." The difficulties of sustaining or even starting adult friendships when our children are small are not ones I hear much about elsewhere, yet this is an issue most parents I know struggle with. Simpson's stories don't have neat and happy endings because the characters are too realistic; like real mothers, they're wrestling with the ambiguity of parenting, with the awful yet freeing knowledge that even the decision which seems right at the time could have unintended consequences, and they don't always love every second of motherhood, but they're in for the duration.