Cover of Motherish by Laura Rock Gaughan




The women who populate Laura Rock Gaughan’s debut collection, Motherish, veer from playful to distraught, reckless to restrained, anchored to unmoored. Gambling grandmas, athletes and organists, pregnant bus passengers and punitive bank tellers are pushed to the brink by Gaughan’s distinctively precise prose, while they grapple with what it means to mother and be mothered. With various perspectives, Gaughan creates box after box—and actual chicken coops—for her characters to explode from, hide in, emerge out of, and ultimately transform.

Advanced Praise

The stories in Laura Rock Gaughan’s Motherish are full of life. Characters leap off the page, sharing their faults and dreams, their ruinous rage, and illuminating joy. The demands of ordinary tasks are met by the surprise of art and invention. These stories are a delight to read.

—Carrie Snyder, author of Girl Runner and The Juliet Stories


Laura Rock Gaughan’s MotherishMotherish turns out to be one hit after another. The entire book cohering around ideas of being a mother and having a mother, and smart enough to know that within this “niche” are a million degrees of experience. Every story is distinct, sparkling in its own particular way.

--Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

Motherish... showcases [a] collection of thirteen short stories which reveals [Gaughan's] genuine flair for originality, deftly crafted memorable characters, and narrative driven storytelling skills... very highly and especially recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections.

--Midwest Book Review

Gaughan's prose is sharp, bright and full of life. Her mothers and their children are a delight.

--Kerry Ryan, Herizons 33.1

Gaughan successfully writes about people different from herself with original and memorable characters that break open the idea of mothering and show the bonds people form when inhabiting each other’s spaces. These emotionally charged stories will make you root for, scream with, and bask in joy along with these characters’ struggles and triumphs.

Mom Egg Review

Book Club Questions
  1. After reading “Good-Enough Mothers,” what do you think it means to be a ‘good enough’ mother?
  2. A ‘maquiladora’ refers to factories in Mexico that export what they produce. Why do you think the author chose to title this chapter “Maquila Bird”? Do you think there is anything ‘motherish’ about the secret labels Maru sews onto some of the garments she makes?
  3. In “Transit,” the heavily-pregnant narrator is very much ‘in transition’ to motherhood. What transitions are expected of women who become mothers? How do the narrator’s actions fit into these expectations?
  4. In what way do characterizations of ‘fatherhood’ reflect upon the nature of motherhood in the story “Let Heaven Rejoice”?
  5. In “At the Track,” the narrator’s adult is life is strongly impacted by the experiences she had with her grandparents at the horse racing track. Is there a particular brand of ‘mothering’ that is expected of grandparents? In what ways does this story rewrite them?
  6. In “The Winnings,” the narrator’s fiancé works at a cardboard plant. What are the other ‘boxes’ the narrator is faced with inhabiting? What do you think makes it difficult to break free from them?
  7. What are the different versions of motherhood presented in “Me and Robin,” “Masters Swim,” and “The New Kitten”?
  8. In “Leaping Clear,” womanhood could be considered the driving theme, rather than motherhood. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
  9. In “Woman Cubed,” is Dale’s secret admirer actually a man, or something else? Why is his intervention important for Dale? What is the significance of the name he gives her, La Reine Anguille, or the Queen Eel?
  10. After reading “Mother Makeover,” do you feel there is an inherently competitive element to motherhood? Explain.
  11. In “A Flock of Chickens,” Rae-Ann has a motherly role as a teacher; however she is also a woman with sexual desire, as she enters into a relationship with her colleague, Rick. After reading the story, do you think it communicates anything about the societal expectations forced on sexually-active women who are mothers? Why do you think the chicken coop is a place of refuge for Rae-Ann?
  12. Which short story did you like best? Why?
  13. Which short story did you like least? Why?

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