Mother Rocket: Stories (Hardcover)
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Mother Rocket is a collection of seven stories peopled with characters who walk the fault line between assured self-knowledge and dangerous self-deception. Many of Rita Ciresi's stories are centered on momentous occasions: children are conceived or planned for, teenagers reach maturity, marriages are contemplated and broken, parents are mourned. In "The End of the Season", Janie is forced to examine the boredom and uncertainty of her marriage as she sorts through mementos from her past. She fears that she and her husband married "not as lovers but as pals, as two people who had sown their oats and were ready to settle for second best, ready to sit back and let their children take a stab at finding passion". In the title story, Jude Silverman, a "bargain basement of neuroses", is the principal dancer in a "politically aware", avant-garde dance troupe. Although she finds a tenuous happiness with Rob Jones, a photographer as earnest and sane as his name suggests, Jude longs for the drama of her past and the chance to be a martyr for an undefined cause. Two stories in the collection concern Karl, a man raised in a Catholic family and under the shadow of his older brother, Lorenz. "Resurrection" is a coming-of-age story in which fifteen-year-old Karl faces the bitter realization that the life he imagines with his worldly piano teacher, Madame Novitski, will not free him from his insecurities. "Second Coming", set thirty-five years later, finds a middle-aged, divorced Karl optimistically telling Lorenz (now a successful if jaded urologist) of his plans to marry the young church organist who carries his child. As the two men converse in Lorenz's office, a "shrine that celebrated the pains andpleasures of masculinity", Karl concludes that the "roar of the vacuum cleaner and the buzz of the lawn mower are preferable to the "silence of a solitary life". In "Dutch Wife", Tom Zogg flees Miami and the sameness of sunshine, sand, and proliferating fast-food restaurants in search of snow, adventure, and the Pioneer Woman of his dreams. He accepts a job as a surveyor in Shy Beaver, South Dakota, where he is met with suspicion ("You tell folks you came here to see snow, they're liable to think you're tetched") and the far-fetched romantic notions of the local sheriff's adolescent daughter, Didi. Whether facing new beginnings or some sort of ending, the characters in these imaginative and intense stories manage to keep their spirits, dreams, and humor miraculously intact despite the reverberations of experience.