Feet to the Stars and other stories
UWA Publishing, $24.99 pb, 180 pp, 9781742587547
Susan Midalia's Feet to the Stars references Sylvia Plath's poem 'You're', in which Plath addresses her unborn child: 'Clownlike, happiest on your hands, / Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled, / Gilled like a fish ...' This clever title foreshadows Midalia's exploration of children in the family dynamic and the use of intertextuality, which are integral to her short stories.
This is Midalia's third book of short stories. In Feet to the Stars, joy and ambivalence mingle in stories that reference the filial (often mother–daughter) relationship. The emphasis on propagation is illustrated by the number of characters who are childless or have miscarried and is further complicated by the question of whether the drive to produce children might be, 'An ego thing. You know, just wanting to replicate your own miserable life.' Women in 'The Inner Life' and 'Working It Out' have miscarried; in 'Oranges', the baby is 'failing to thrive'; in 'The Hook' and 'A Blast of a Poem', the protagonists mourn the absence of a child in their lives:
We kept on trying. We kept on talking. It'll happen soon. Don't worry. We've got plenty of time. No earthly reason. Just relax, our friends began to chorus, the ones with fuzzy-haired gurgling babies and dimpled toddlers ... Relax was what my GP said as well, what the expert on the radio said. I tried different kinds of herbal tea and St. John's Wort, also known as chase-devil.