There are nine short stories in this collection, plus “Moon River” a moving memoir of the death of the author’s mother.
Typically of Hospital’s work, there are other considerations in “Moon River” than just the central story. For instance, the author entwines her family history with the history of the Brisbane River since European settlement, and there is a graceful meditation on the precarious nature of memory, something Hospital has pondered in earlier works.
In the Wesley Hospital, Hospital’s mother has difficulty remembering a Sunday lunch cruise down the Brisbane River which occurred only a few months before. There are also whole decades of valuable family time missing, unable to be recalled. Yet, towards the end of her life, when her whole tribe gathers from all over Australia, and, in Hospital’s case, South Carolina, to say goodbye, the old lady is so elated that she adds her voice to a spontaneous family singsong. Hospital says, “My mother sang lustily, words and melody alighting on her like a flock of doves from the top hat of a magician.”
Hospital’s work can be read viscerally but it should never be underestimated. For underneath the seduction of the story there are layers of meaning waiting to be excavated. No fare for the intellectually lazy, Hospital’s texts expect her readers to take nothing for granted, and may even expect personal decisions to be made about how a story should end. Who is Joshua in that disturbing tale, “Afterlife of a Stolen Child,” which is told from the point of view of all the main players? Don’t expect to be told, dear readers, for it’s up to you to decide.
Read Hospital’s work with due care and consideration and you will be richly rewarded.