★★★★★ Clinging to the Edge by Theresa Rivera is a collection of short stories marking transformative points in different mothers’ lives. In the title story, Harriet, a harried mother of two, reflects upon recent events in her stormy marriage after overdosing on anti-depressants. In “The Ghost Tamer,” a city-slicker-turned-horse-breeder named Jo develops a tenuous relationship with a ghost haunting the property, unraveling the mystery of her identity in the process. In “Silent Night,” a mother driving home with her two boys decides to take a detour through country roads, hoping for a better view of the winter splendor—and ends up encountering a mysterious figure in the woods. And in “Joyful Oddities,” a woman who likes to spend her time in peaceful cemeteries has an inexplicable but comforting experience with a familiar face.
Rivera’s writing is infused with such strength that it takes a great deal of willpower on the part of the reader not to be swept away by it. Though her stories vary wildly in tone—especially “Clinging to the Edge,” which has a sad, yet frantic feeling of hilarity to it—there is a central theme here of the untold pain and beauty that comes with being a woman, and, in particular, a mother. Her characters deal with suffocating, sometimes frightening, situations that are hard to explain to the loved ones in their lives. Husbands, when present, respond with bemusement, impatience, or melodramatic concern. Yet, while others would consider this isolating, Rivera’s women push past normal boundaries and end up approaching a phase state close to freedom, touching something truly supernatural in the process.