Monday 30 March 2020

Review by Kathy Hoyle of "The Almost Mothers" by Laura Besley

This stunning flash fiction debut takes us on a compelling journey, with Laura Besley skilfully weaving together a variety of narratives as far removed from the familiar womb-warmth of traditional tales of motherhood that one could possibly imagine.   

This is an exploration of motherhood, in all its complexities. Besley refuses to hold back, plunging the reader into the realisation that motherhood is often stark and terrifying, with her opening story, "Mothers Anonymous." We hear from Melissa: "'I’m Melissa,’ she says in a raspy voice like she smokes a pack a day… And I hate being a mother.'" And from there, Besley drags us through each tale by the heartstrings.  

In "Everything’s Fine," we see how being a new mum means discarding one’s own self, to emerge unrecognisable, even in your own mirror: "I see a face and step back, knocking over a bin when I realize it’s me. The new me. The she who doesn’t wear make-up, have time to wash or sometimes even brush her hair." 

Then, we have moments of wry humour in "Down To Earth," a humorous story about Earth mothers, told from an alien point of view. But quickly we find ourselves hurtling downward again, with the horrifying "Wish Upon a Star," a story that takes your breath away in just three, short paragraphs. 

Besley dips into dystopian futures, with two tense and terrifying stories, "In Hiding" and "The Unmothers," and she’s also not afraid to acknowledge the non-mothers, with her uncompromising story "That Face" and with the brief, but intensely powerful, "How to Grow Your Own Baby."

The Almost Mothers is a wonderful collection of short fiction which has real depth and poignancy. Besley captures motherhood beautifully in this raw and uncompromising debut. I look forward reading much more of her work in the future.   

About the reviewer
Kathy Hoyle is an MA graduate from The University of Leicester. Her short stories and flash fiction have appeared in a variety of literary magazines such as Virtualzine, Silver Apples, Reflex Fiction and Another North.  She was shortlisted for The Exeter Short Story Prize, The Fish Memoir Prize and the Ellipsiszine Flash Fiction Collection Prize. She is currently working on her first novel. 

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