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The Mother Who Stayed

The Mother Who Stayed


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In nine strikingly perceptive stories set miles and decades apart, Laura Furman mines the intricate, elusive lives of mothers and daughters—and of women who long for someone to nurture. Meet Rachel, a young girl desperate for her mother’s unbridled attention, knowing that soon she’ll have to face the world alone; Marian, a celebrated novelist who betrays the one person willing to take care of her as she is dying—her unclaimed “daughter”; and Dinah, a childless widow uplifted by the abandoned, century-old diaries of Mary Ann, a mother of eleven.

The Mother Who Stayed is an homage to the timeless, primal bond between mother and child and a testament that the relationships we can’t define can be just as poignant, memorable, and inspiring as those determined by blood. Tender and insightful, Furman’s stories also bravely confront darker realities of separation and regret, death and infidelity—even murder. Her vividly imagined characters and chiseled prose close the gap between generations of women as they share their wisdom almost in chorus: Although our lives will end, we must cherish the sanctity of each day and say, as did Mary Ann ages ago, “I done what I could.”
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  • Free Press | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439194652 | 
  • February 2011
List Price $15.99
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Long Lost Diaries Inspire Laura Furman

Laura Furman tells of the long lost diaries of a stranger that inspired her debut collection of short stories, The Mother Who Stayed.

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Read an Excerpt

The Eye

The grape arbor was a square open to the sky with tangled vines for walls. There was no breeze, no sound but the sun crackling in midday fullness and the hum of bees at work. An hour had to pass before the girls were allowed to swim, so they lay in the grape arbor, waiting. When it was very hot, Rachel Cantor’s mother had told her, the best thing was to lie still and let the heat leave your body, but Rachel had the beginning of a summer cold and to her ears the bees in the viney walls sounded dangerous. She asked, “Where’s Mom?”

“Don’t bother her,” Betsey... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Mother Who Stayed includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Laura Furman. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Written in concerto-inspired form, The Mother Who Stayed by Laura Furman moves its readers through three trios of short stories. Each trio concerns a different set of characters whose lives are connected through family, location, or sheer coincidence. Furman’s characters run the gamut of motherhood: a substitute mother who discovers that there is no self without the love of another, a motherless daughter who must come to her own epiphanies about the transience of life, and a childless mother who tries to act on her maternal instincts. The Mother Who Stayed is both a meditation on and a celebration of domestic American life, spanning generations of women.


1. In “The Eye,” the opening story of The Mother Who Stayed, several events take place at the Ziegelmans’ Fourth of July picnic which serve as a window into the secrets shared by the families in attendance. What are those secrets? Rachel Cantor is a witness to some see more



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