‘Mother’ by Grace Paley

A story for January
I could have chosen any number of Grace Paley stories, but I’ve selected ‘Mother’ to kick off my list as it’s set on New Year’s Day and the tone of reflection we often have as the year turns. A writer, teacher and peace activist, Paley’s stories are filled with people, vivid scenes, and city life. Her work has a bright, fast energy. ⁠
‘Mother’ has a typically distinctive voice from the start (“I have often longed to see my mother in the doorway”) and humour (“She said sadly, If you come home at 4 a.m. when you’re seventeen, what time will you come home when you’re twenty?”), with a sense of the past haunting the present (“They sat in comfortable leather chairs. They were listening to Mozart. They looked at one another amazed. It seemed to them that they’d just come over on the boat.”) 

First published in Later The Same Day, FSG, 1985; included in Sudden Fiction, edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas, Peregrine Smith, 1986 and available to read online here

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