In brief: Four short stories about motherhood, loosely based on fairy tales – but don’t look for happy endings here.
The good: It’s brutally honest about the less than stellar aspects of motherhood.
The not-so-good: Do not give this to your pregnant friend!
Pages: 213 (ARC)
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Setting: Unnamed towns and cities, likely Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
There’s a lot of babies in my life at the moment. Not mine (fortunately), but I have a lot of pregnant friends and new mothers in my circle of friends. Reading Mothers Grimm, I can’t say that I want to join their ranks too soon!
When we think about mothers in fairy tales…well, there’s not too many of them (but a plethora of wicked stepmothers) and they’re not the nice, selfless types. A baby for leafy greens? Sure. Leaving your child in the woods? No worries. But everyday mothers don’t do that – they are pure and always act in the best interests of their offspring…right? The mothers in this story are modern and they’re also women in their own right. They had lives, careers, friends and a social life before Baby made an entrance. Society expects them to juggle everything with a smile, from the high-powered, high-stress job to having a perfect three course dinner on the table every single night. It’s just not possible and in these tales, Danielle Wood shows that something’s got to give. Nobody can be perfect 100% of the time and society does put unrealistic expectations on mothers and judges them harshly for it.
The stories are based on fairy tales, but the premise is so twisted that you’d be hard-pressed to recognise the origin of the tale. I really liked that part – it meant I had no preconceived ideas of what was to come. Boy, I was in for some eye-opening. Wood tackles the big stuff, from the seemingly perfect mother who changes her mind at the last minute to the accidental pregnancy that ends in accidental tragedy. She reveals that mothers are not serene angels, but women whose phones go flat because they forgot to turn the charger on and die a little inside when they have to leave their child in day care to pay the mortgage. They do bad things too, whether it be poisoning or sneaking in a coffee when pregnant. It’s great. It shows we’re all human and we all have faults. Who is this society to tell us what to do anyway?
The stories are easily read in a sitting or two (I say two because they equalled two train trips for me) and I think women who are mothers may relate more to some of the thoughts expressed in the stories (us others, we just nod and know that our friends have said this a lot). It’s probably not a book you want to give to your idealistic friend who is expecting her first child though! (Wait until she’s had several months of sleepless nights). They’re not always happy, but they reflect life as we know it. Read it and grin at the scenes you recognise!