From Electric Lit:
A story walks into the bar and says, “I’d like you to meet this mother and this daughter,” and right away the whole room turns to see how similar or different they will be. Is the young woman a carbon copy of the older woman? Is she a physical opposite? Inside the young woman, is it all fight and wrestling to be different, to redefine? Can we sense the mother reaching to stay close?
Then the story says, “And here is this son and his mother,” and we all turn again because now we’re not so much looking to see if they are an exact match but to see if he’s grown up enough or if his mother has somehow ruined him with her careful love, if he has ruined her with his wild boyhood.
But the story is not finished. Now it tells us that the young man and the young woman have fallen in love even though he came from wealth and she came from the opposite, and it’s Easter, and he is taking her to his mother’s grand home for an egg hunt and brunch. Now we have the boy’s mother and a potential daughter-in-law (plus pristine white carpet and long-standing family traditions and the shadow of the last girlfriend whom everyone wanted the boy to marry). The daughter’s own mother is far away, barely reachable on the phone, and though they have caused each other so much damage, the mother now feels suddenly like the only safe place.
This is the stage for Mary Otis’s Burst. The genius is the way Otis fills the room with the cloud of social expectations—gender and inheritance and the patriarchal chain of command and money and poverty and all that tired but persistent cruel-ladies-who-gobble-each-other-up and boys-who-would-rather-be-cared-for-and-then-let-outside. Emerging through the fog is Viva, particular and real, trying to find her own sharp, exact edges, her own actual needs, her own self in relationship to her boyfriend, her mother, and his.
Link to the rest at Electric Lit