“Who is at the center of the stories we tell about pregnancy?” This question resonates for reviewer Kathryn Ordiway through Michelle Ross’s Shapeshifting, out November 2nd from Stillhouse Press. Dig into Ordiway’s review of Shapeshifting below, which positions readers as “voyeurs, watching the intimate moments.”
“Who is at the center of the stories we tell about pregnancy?” I asked myself while reading “Shapeshifting,” the titular story of Michelle Ross’s second collection of stories. The protagonist was contemplating the title Rosemary’s Baby: “I can’t decide whether that wording makes the baby or Rosemary the subject of the film.” Her husband decides it’s obviously Rosemary who is the subject, the baby just a possession. I wasn’t so sure.
The question follows throughout the collection. Who are these stories about, and which of the protagonists’ identities are most central? Because the women in these stories are, of course, shapeshifters. The journey of pregnancy and motherhood is the most obvious shift at play, but never are the women’s other identities far behind. These women are daughters and grandmothers, mothers-in-law, wives, all while being women, and often while being mothers. They are the perceived and the perceivers. The victims and the abusers. In a formal sense, they are protagonists as much as they are secondary characters, those around whom the story revolves, even as their gaze brings others to the forefront.