We could all use a little work. Even the most "normal" of us could use a good dose of psycho therapeutic reflection or cognitive behavioral manipulation. Especially the moms. Whether it's the hormones or the sudden overwhelming sense of responsibility and neurosis, I know I've had more than my fair share of nervous breakdowns since I saw that first blue plus sign on a stick.
WOMEN UP ON BLOCKS The title itself conjures a powerful image. Set aside the immediate mental flash of stirrups and invasive annual examination. Look at the cover art (good shoes) because in this case you can judge a book yada yada yada. Like meandering by the tv in lingerie during playoffs, red shoes and good legs propped along a dirty bumper ought to get you noticed. Women in these stories go to extremes to get noticed, allow themselves and others to go to extremes to fix themselves, and extreme things occur to teach them a lesson. The content of the stories are as strong as the imagery. The plots are at once relatable and repellent. After I finished, I felt better about myself as a mother, wife, member of my community in general. Mary Aker's clear, honest voice carries the content. Her insightful, creative images pull the characters and the reader to the other side.
The first story, "Medusa Song," is horrifyingly honest. The story is a warning for those women who allow an emotionally absent, philandering husband and subservient, oppressive life to go too far. The protagonist is at risk to become the villain unless she takes control of her life. Her repression and complacency threaten her children in an almost too creepy Susan Smith kind of way. The conclusion is an allegorical baptism by fire. You're left wondering if you should call social services.
Sometimes the world can miss the point in a good intention, as in Jenny the stripper's crusade for animal rights in "Animo, Anima, Animus." Sometimes the good intentions are warped from the beginning, as in cancer stricken Ima, who martyrs herself for the benefit of the travelling show "Bodyworks" in "Pygmalion, (Recast)." The archetypal good girl gets it all wrong and pins all her dreams on the bad boy in "Wild, Wild Horses." The one character who seems to have the best sense of self in the entire collection is the archetypal bad girl in "Evangeline."
WOMEN UP ON BLOCKS is a collection of contradictions and duelling themes. Just like you never know what a woman is really thinking one moment to the next, you never know what these women are up to one story to the next.