Shapeshifting could mean a lot of things.
I think about the transformation from girlhood to womanhood and how the world reacts to who the girl becomes. I think about the single life giving way to the identity of being a wife, part of a couple and all that entails. I think about aging and how older women are perceived in comparison to who they were a decade or two prior. I think about what the girl/woman/person is thinking when the world seems to work differently based on her changing appearance.
Michelle Ross highlights some of those iterations in this short story collection, focusing on characters who are mothers and the hilarity and incredulity of everyday experiences viewed from afar but also the intense feelings when those are experienced firsthand. To read these stories is to view life through the convex lens of motherhood – sometimes forced to curve outwards to accommodate those they mother, albeit with a precision they register but can’t act on.
Some of the plot set-ups are funny but also realistic glimpses into how mothers create worlds for their families: a woman who camps out in a van with a still-breastfeeding, diaper-producing infant for several nights all so she can secure a spot for her older child to attend kindergarten while her husband stays at home and basks in the attention he garners for doing a lot less; a new mom trying to break generational curses but falling into some of the same pitfalls that arise from breaking the sanctity of coupledom; a woman who is torn between protecting and sheltering and her child, obsessing about the impact of how much information to share to arm but not scare her daughter; the mother-in-law who tries to make amends a generation later but can’t seem to get things right when compared to the lioness who married her son.
The stories are smart and funny or sad or thoughtful, depending on how you view the characters. As a mom who is currently researching how to get my toddler into some of those prestigious programs that may be free if you’re only willing to sacrifice a (identify treasured limb here), these characters touch me and motivate me and make me wish I knew them in real life. The title of the collection feels appropriate for the varied identities the women must take on in each story as they relate to their spouses, friends and people who act like friends but are really the thorns in their sides, their children, their own parents. The women are all strong even when they could use some real support themselves. Definitely read this one if you want to know what it’s like when feminists become mothers, or if you’re not a mother and want the behind-the-scenes look at the sacrifices that accompany the joys of motherhood.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for inviting me on this publicity tour and thanks to author Michelle Ross for gifting me a complimentary copy of Shapeshifting in order for me to complete this review. I was not otherwise compensated and the views expressed above reflect my honest opinion about the book
- Title: Shapeshifting Stories
- Author: Michelle Ross
- Format: Paperback
- Page Count: 232
- Publisher: Stillhouse Press
- Publication Date: November 2, 2021
The fourteen spellbinding stories in Michelle Ross’s second collection invite readers into the shadows of social-media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood. A recovering alcoholic navigates the social landscape of a toddler playdate; a mother of two camps out in a van to secure her son’s spot at a prestigious kindergarten; a young girl forces her friends to play an elaborate, unwinnable game. With unflinching honesty and vivid, lyric prose, Ross explores the familial ties that bind us together-or, sometimes, tear us apart.