Mothers Book Cover


Chris Power

A collection of short stories focusing on relationships and memories.

Who was she really, this woman? She was my mum of course, but that was only one part and I want to know all the parts.

Mothers is a stunning debut collection from Chris Power. An intricate weave of sexuality, relationships, mental health and loss. Rich in emotion, Mothers is remarkable for its ability to launch readers straight into the lives of its diverse and distinctive characters. Opening with ‘Summer 1976’, it takes readers on a journey, both geographically and emotionally, criss-crossing childhood memories with adult situations. The title Mothers refers to a subset of stories: ‘Summer 1976’, ‘Innsbruck’ and ‘Eva’, all linked through a central character and which develop as you progress through them. Mothers is not a book that will leave you happy, despite Chris Power’s proficient writing. It is, however, a thing of both beauty and ugliness, cleverly constructed and haunting.

How does Mothers take on mental illness?

How do the trio of stories: ‘Summer 1976’, ‘Innsbruck’ and ‘Eva’, build on from each other?

In ‘The Crossing’, do you think the river is symbolic of part of Anna and Jim’s relationship? If so, in what way?

Are there any positive romantic relationships shown through the collection? If so, which ones and how?

What do you think the author was trying to express in chronicling Eva’s story and was motherhood the main theme?

In ‘Above the Wedding’ why do you think Nuria interacts with Liam in the way she does? Why do you think Miguel has such an indecisive relationship with Liam?

The Colossus of Rhodes’ has a sort of epilogue that is written in the form of author’s commentary, why do you think Chris Power wrote this and do you think that the commentary is written as the narrator or as Power himself?

In ‘Run’ the big climax is when Gunilla leaves David. Power has written it as though it could be interpreted that Gunilla’s leaving is due to interference by spiritual beings: ‘maybe there was a ghost after all, he thought. It took her things. It took her.’ How does this affect the story?

In ‘Portals’ did you find the main character’s attachment to Monica odd after knowing her for such a small period of time? Did you find it odd how much he demanded Monica’s attention?

What do you think the main message of ‘The Haväng Dolmen’ is? Is its focus the aftermath of trauma and the rippling effect that traumatic events have?


Summer 1976– A woman; Eva, reminisces about a summer of her childhood, living in an apartment building with her mother and her mother’s partner, she recalls how about a lie she told. We learn at the end of the story that two years after the events of the story Eva’s mother died and Eva is left wondering what her mother was like before she became a mother.

Above the Wedding– Liam lives in London with his brother Cameron. The wedding of two of Cameron’s friends, Nuria and Miguel, is upcoming and both Liam and Cameron are going to attend the ceremony in Spain. The story recounts Liam’s secret affair with Miguel and his feelings for him. When Liam tries to reconnect with Miguel before the wedding he is shunned and Nuria reveals at the wedding that she knew about the affair, insisting that Liam stay away.

The Crossing– Anne and Jim are hiking through the Somerset countryside. The story opens with them struggling to cross a river which they manage to traverse with the assistance of some other passers-by. Anne then speaks of the growing distance in her relationship with Jim. It concludes with them trying to cross another river: Jim has an accident and ends up being pulled away down the stream, unconscious and bleeding, it is likely to his death.

The Colossus of Rhodes– A father is on holiday in Greece with his family, he recalls his childhood holiday to Greece in 1985 and the events that transpired. He talks about his obsession, at the time, for a certain board game called ‘Crossbows and Catapults’. The story then takes a turn as he details an encounter with a paedophilic man who touched him inappropriately when he was playing an arcade game. The main character then debates his feelings towards the event and how he would react if a similar event happened to his children.

Innsbruck– Eva is travelling in Spain, carrying a travel guide of her mother’s. She has an angry encounter with a fellow tourist who isn’t happy when she rebuffs his advances. It becomes clear that Eva is struggling with her mental health, having suicidal tendencies. She skips back to a relationship she had with a man called Josip. The story ends with Eva deciding to travel to Innsbruck – her intentions and mental state are unknown.

The Haväng Dolmen– A lecturer discusses a trip he took to Sweden several months ago. During that time, exploring the sites of historical remains, he visits the ‘The Haväng Dolmen’, a burial chamber. Inside the burial chamber, he experiences flashbacks to a holiday in France when he was ten. During the holiday, he befriended some local kids who tricked him into getting trapped in a cave – an event which was traumatic and still haunts him.

Run– A couple, David and Gunilla, vacation to a supposed haunted house. The story then goes through their relationship and how they interact with one another. After a walk around the local area, David falls behind and when he catches up with Gunilla he sees her getting picked up by a car. Arriving back at the house, all of Gunilla’s belongings are missing and he starts to wonder whether a ghost has taken her from him.

Portals– The main character travels to France to meet up with a Spanish dancer called Monica. The two had met once before and wanted to reconnect. The story covers how the main character doesn’t get along with Monica’s friends during the trip and that it causes difficulties in them spending time together. The main character is longing to be in a relationship with Monica. During a drugged experience in a night club, he sees her dancing with another man and strikes her companion out of jealousy. After the encounter, Monica pretends she doesn’t know him and walks away. He realises that they really don’t know each other having only previously met once and that he had no right over her.

Johnny Kingdom– A failed comedian is struggling in his career; his only success is impersonating the dead comedian Johnny Kingdom. Fashioning himself after the late star and using his act, he has managed to get some attention but his wife isn’t a fan. He himself is falling out of love with his work and has decided that his next booking at a bachelor’s party will be his last. After a drugged-up brawl at the bachelor’s party he finds himself on the side of the road, battered, bruised and finally through with being Johnny Kingdom. He does, however, have an idea; he will write material on his experience of being Johnny Kingdom.

Eva– Focusing on Joe, Eva’s husband, ‘Eva’ is about Joe’s experiences of being married to Eva, how he became aware of her illness and how she abandons both him and their daughter to go travelling for years, only keeping in touch with a few lines on a postcard. Joe discusses his past intentions – to find out more about Eva and her past, information Eva was always reluctant to share. Eva did reveal to him that once she tried to commit suicide, throwing herself off a bridge in Innsbruck. Joe battles resentment towards Eva after her treatment towards both him and their daughter, Marie. Eva comes and goes from their lives. Nine years after last seeing Eva, Joe is contacted by a doctor in Sweden who says that Eva would like to see him and Marie; now an adult. Joe travels to visit her but doesn’t mention it to Marie. Once there he sees Eva frail and aged. Eva mentioned that she has written a story, in Swedish, about her childhood, Joe mentions he would like to read it. He is reluctant to discuss both his and Marie’s personal life with her, but upon leaving mentions that Marie is having a baby. Back at home he is considering telling Marie about Eva but Eva dies a few weeks later. Not long after, mail arrives from Eva, it’s a package containing her story ‘Sommar 1976’ (Summer 1976), sat with a translation app Joe starts to read.

Since 2007, Chris Power has written a regular column for The Guardian.



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For the last two days I've stopped in Love Coffee to read Mothers by @cjpo I ordered it from the library a few months ago and forgot to pick it up. But I think a good book comes at the right time. It feels fitting that I'm in Sweden while reading it as the stories often touch on this beautiful country in one way or another. Thanks, @emily_kay_goodman for the recommendation! I'm loving it. The comparison with Alice Munro really drew me in and, in this case, it's fitting. Chris Power weaves, seemingly effortlessly, unsettling stories. With each, I was fascinated by the characters but I also loved how these stories bring you around the world. Travel really gives me ideas for stories and this collection has too, reminding me of places I've been and strange things that happened in them. Today is my last in Lund. Tomorrow Copenhagen.

A post shared by Molly Aitken (@molly.aitken) on

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