Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

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Other Mothers

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pp. 1-11

I bump into the woman as I’m trying to maneuver my stroller out of the way of a man in a suit.

“Sorry,” I say, turning around.

She laughs and lifts up her hands, and I catch sight of fine red seams at her wrist creases, seams that glisten and yawn as her hands tip backward, open to the bone so her hands topple like two people falling in unison over two peaks and finally hang, floppy but suspended behind the upheld...

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Costume

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pp. 12-15

My brother is squeezable. I like to squeeze his head and rest my fingers on the soft spot at the top where the bones stay open, waiting for smartness to enter. I fit two fingers in this spot and rub in slow circles.

Today my brother is dressed as a pink bunny rabbit and I am a witch. My mother designed his costume because he’s still too small to imagine for himself. He’s at the stage where he hops around in his plastic underpants and eats...

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Center

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pp. 16-34

Susan only half believes she’s visiting the home of her newly married brother. She has a queasy, unreal feeling left over from the plane ride: New York to Los Angeles—nonstop, a feeling of distances covered too quickly. On the plane she’d studied the back of the inflight magazine—the states mapped out like different regions of the brain, the flight trajectories swooping and swirling electric pulses. She’d been surprised at the number of connections leading to and away from her childhood home...

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Caroline

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pp. 35-43

In the picnic area behind the swimming pool, shielded by a small pocket made by pomegranate trees, we folded paper into prisms and wrote names of boys under folds we colored like peacock feathers. To land a boy you picked a number and watched your friend’s fingers open and shut the prism—nineteen, twenty times—felt your face flush as you leaned over and unfolded one of the petals. Your friend held your future in her hands and the boy you would ride into it, as if he were a chariot. We’d be asleep, like some...

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Audra

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pp. 44-57

The first time Molly saw her, Audra was throwing herself backward, hooking her knees into the high beam of the jungle gym and flipping. She was upside down, and falling through the air. It was spring in Ohio, the summer heat creeping in. It melted the edges of buildings, turned the ramadas and portables, the large flat cubes of the public school buildings, into shivery holograms. Molly closed and opened her eyes, for the girl wavered as she landed and walked toward her—she could have been the shadow...

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Details

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pp. 58-63

We’re driving up the side of his mountain in his red BMW. He’s wearing flip-flops and I’m not sure they’re right for the occasion. He’s supposed to seduce me, and I’m supposed to be seducible, but it’s a plan I don’t like to admit, and it’s less important than the feeling of the tropical drink, and rising up through hills away from Los Angeles. I’m rising, to look through the window he has for a wall, to sit inside a house with low-lit lamps, guitar music, and magazines he’s told me...

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When Maggie Thinks of Matt

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pp. 64-77

When Maggie thinks of Matt she thinks of an Edward Weston photograph of a large plaster mug in the middle of a desert with the word coffee painted onto it as an enticement. She thinks of misplaced, mismatched old things, such as the mildewed movie house just up the street from her apartment in the neighborhood she didn’t know was dangerous, and of the movie star he said she could be. She thinks of the building facades in downtown Syracuse, gray and leaking soot, of the inside of the old...

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Jill, or the Big Little Lady

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pp. 78-89

The little lady inched open the door of her pickup truck using both of her Barbie-sized feet, and in a grinding effort of lower body strength flung the door wide. She jumped to the curb, barely cleared the gutter, and landed next to a hazy rain puddle—ringed with rainbows of gasoline, studded with sticky blue and pink islands of gum.

A man standing at the curb smoking dropped his cigarette. He was smitten at the sight of the small figure flying through the air. The lady watched the cigarette fall...

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Dora

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pp. 90-92

The first time Dora came back I didn’t recognize her.

She appeared at our party as a ripple in the wallpaper, as an outline of a young woman whose cloak matched the damask—her hair, a mess as usual, was now a hovering arrangement of funeral flowers.

Our father had died only a month before, and I was busy with his friends, high-ranking party officials who had come about the money. Today these men were sheet metal. Only their eyes were alive, wide and trapped in steel casing. I was sure any grief...

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Winona

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pp. 93-120

Winona wakes up on a pillowcase that hasn’t been changed in a year. She secretly likes the smell of it. Likes to fall asleep to her scent, and then linger in the morning, a few moments with it, as with an illicit lover. She is half awake, and half lying on the porch of her grandmother’s old colonial in Georgia. She’s lying in a crooked shape, as if she’s doing the Charleston on her back, but really she’s been stabbed in the gut. A black-handled cheese knife sticks out of her stomach and a glass of iced tea balances on her chest. She’s concentrating...

Credits

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pp. 121-122

Book Club Guide

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pp. 123-126

About the Author

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p. 127