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The Mother Who Stayed

The Mother Who Stayed

Stories

  • reading group guide
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
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Video

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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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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

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

About the Author

Laura Furman
Ave Bonar

Laura Furman

Laura Furman was born in New York, and educated in New York City public schools and at Bennington College. Her first story appeared in The New Yorker in 1976, and since then her work has been published in many magazines, including Yale Review,Southwest Review, Ploughshares, American Scholar,Preservation, House & Garden, and other magazines. Her books include three collections of short stories, two novels,and a memoir. She is the recipient of fellowships from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Dobie Paisano Project, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has received grants in residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and in 2009 she was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome. She taught for many years in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. Series editor of The PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories since 2002, Furman selects the twenty winning stories each year. She lives in Central Texas.

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