When Robin Romm's The Mother Garden was published, The New York Times Book Review called her "a close-up magician", saying, "hers is the oldest kind [of magic] we know: the ordinary incantation of words and stories to help us navigate the darkness and finally to hold the end at bay." In her searing memoir The Mercy Papers, Romm uses this magic to expand the weeks before her mother's death into a story about a daughter in the moments before and after loss.
When we meet Shalem, a young woman in her late 30s, she is enduring small talk at a cocktail party hosted by one of her husband's colleagues. One talks about her breast milk and her twins; another frets about the matronly ass of his girlfriend. Shalem has arrived at the age of no longer young but not old and balancing the in-between. What she wears isn't cool. What she thinks isn't cool.