from When It Happens to You by Molly Ringwald
Ms. Ringwald takes the reader up to thirty thousand feet with this second story, Redbud. It is a long view, detailed and reaches far back into the memories of mothers and daughters.
We meet Ilise who is Greta’s mother, while Greta recklessly drives her SUV through traffic. Ilise is a carefully budgeted woman, having raised daughters, and a son that died suddenly. She carefully whispers her past to us, its heritage, and the tracks in the snow lead back to Ilise who is now demanding a life of her own. Greta wants all of her mother’s attention but doesn’t really take her seriously. The distance between the two women grows more with each passing page, and it’s a sad thing to watch.
Greta is hiding a secret that I saw coming, and still won’t tell anyone that it has happened. It’s a bit of trickery, a kind of bluff, which builds a character flaw into Greta, one that is very likeable. Along the way we learn that Ilise is a kind of gardening genius and Greta is stunned by her mothers casual ability to toss off horticultural details like tying her shoes. The parallel between the aging mother, unhappy Greta and the possibility of growing a good garden almost overwhelm this story.
These characters have a slow and magnetic charm, which isn’t easy to pull off, when so much unspoken drama is underfoot.