Mothers And Other Monsters

Maureen McHugh

Small Beer Press , 2006

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

In her luminous, long-awaited debut collection, award-winning novelist Maureen F. McHugh wryly and delicately examines the impacts of social and technological shifts on families. Using beautiful, deceptively simple prose, she illuminates the relationship between parents and children and the expected and unexpected chasms that open between generations.

McHugh's characters—her Alzheimers-afflicted parents or her smart and rebellious teenagers—are always recognizable: stubborn, human, and heartbreakingly real.


Story Prize finalist.
A Book Sense Notable Book.

"Gorgeously crafted stories."
Nancy Pearl (Book Lust) on Morning Edition,

"My favorite thing about her is the wry, uncanny tenderness of her stories. She has the astonishing ability to put her finger on the sweet spot right between comedy and tragedy, that pinpoint that makes you catch your breath. You're not sure whether to laugh out loud or cry, and you end up doing both at once."
Dan Chaon

"When I first read China Mountain Zhang many years ago, Maureen McHugh instantly became, as she has remained, one of my favorite writers. This collection is a welcome reminder of her power—they are resonant, wise, generous, sharp, transporting, and deeply, deeply moving. McHugh is enormously gifted; each of these stories is a gift."
Karen Joy Fowler

"Wonderfully unpredictable stories, from the very funny to the very grim, by one of our best and bravest imaginative writers."
Ursula K. Le Guin

"Enchanting, funny and fierce by turns —a wonderful collection!"
Mary Doria Russell

"Unpredictable and poetic work."
Cleveland Plain Dealer 

"Clear, bright, and honest."
New York Review of Science Fiction

"Each story in this collection meditates in its own, odd way on the dynamics of families and the vagaries of being human. 'Ancestor Money' considers the demands of the afterlife and the expectations of the living; 'The Lincoln Train' describes an alternate ending to the U.S. Civil War, in which former slave owners are shipped westward on crowded trains. 'Nekropolis', the germ of McHugh's novel of the same title, gives a slightly different flavor to the origins of the story common to both versions. Other stories occur in settings closer to the known world and the tensions of families in it. In 'Eight-Legged Story,' a stepmother comes to terms with being a replacement parent, and in 'Frankenstein's Daughter,' a woman deals with the health problems of her daughter's clone, while her teenage son tries to show off to his friends by shoplifting. McHugh's stories are hauntingly beautiful, driven by the difficult circumstances of their characters' lives—slices of life well worth reading and rereading."

"The 13 stories in McHugh's debut collection offer poignant and sometimes heartwrenching explorations of personal relationships and their transformative power. In 'Presence,' a woman helps her husband through an experimental therapy for his Alzheimer's disease and, by the story's end, is less his spouse than a nurturing mother to his developing personality. 'In the Air' bridges three generations with its account of the different emotions a woman wrestles with as she anxiously tracks her wandering senile mother and her rebellious teenage daughter by means of biologically implanted homing devices. 'Laika Comes Back Safe' represents so believably the feelings two school friends share about their lives in dysfunctional families that the revelation that one occasionally transforms into a werewolf seems entirely within the realm of possibility. Whether writing an alternate Civil War history in 'The Lincoln Train' or a tale of extraterrestrial anthropology in 'The Cost to Be Wise,' McHugh (Nekropolis) relates her stories as slices of ordinary life whose simplicity masks an emotional intensity more often found in poetry. The universality of these tales should break them out to the wider audience they deserve."
Publishers Weekly