Kim Miller-Davis's Reviews > Shelter

Shelter by Frances Greenslade
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Jul 08, 12

Read in July, 2012

Frances Greenslade uses the story of two abandoned girls to explore universal truths about women's lives and the relationships we build. Her ability to compassionately portray the decisions and behaviors of a wide range of mothers (none of whom is perfect) without condemnation or complete understanding is refreshing in its honesty and impressive in its brilliance.

Throughout the novel, Greenslade carefully navigates a fine line: while reinforcing the notion of the mother as the primary shaper of a child's sense of self, she depicts her mothers as human beings (individuals before motherhood) whose mistakes are not necessarily born of selfish need, but, rather, born to meet the primary needs of self. The author does not give free passes to mothers who irrevocably hurt the children that adore and need them, nor does she offer full explanations of their questionable decisions. Yet, she forces us to get close enough to see how much each of the mothers loves their children, even as they are making choices we, ourselves, would not make.

Finally, Greenslade does not leave time for blame or recriminations. She enables her characters to find pieces of mothering in other unlikely places--in eccentric characters, in storytelling, in relationships, in nature, and in themselves. It is here where the true genius lies. Instead of leaving us with anger, outrage, or abject sadness, the author leaves us with hope--a renewed belief in the intrinsic good of humanity and an understanding of the unlimited power of nurture, in whatever form it takes.
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