Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Story Analysis: The Mothers of Voorhisville

I'm going to try something new here, and may or may not earn me the wrath of some author. But I figure if these stories are up for reviews and critiques, then playing the analytical game isn't so bad and it's something I already do when reading, so...yeah.

So going to take a look at "The Mothers of Voorhisville" by Mary Rickert, published by Story is available for free online so you can read you won't be left out.

I'm going with this story because it's actually a pretty decent psychological horror, and it's becoming increasingly hard to find those that don't sound like a dreamlike sequences the author had while hopped on cold medicine. I also disagree with Lois Tilton in her review, but we'll get to that. The story is certainly (in my opinion) flawed, but not in the way that she thinks.

Voorhisville is a small town that gets turned on its head when "The Stranger" comes and seducers several of the women--women who range from married to widowed, underage teens to some reaching into their forties. The result of the seduction leads to pregnancies and the birth of blue-eyed boys...with wings. So yes, there is a Village of the Damned vibe to this, however, instead of creepy kids, we get crazy, overprotective mothers.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, individual mothers and "The Mothers" who is a collective voice. The Mothers try to chronicle the events while individuals share their personal experiences, which are the most powerful scenes. To read how each woman came into contact with the stranger, how they instantly "did it" with him, pregnancy, the terrible labor, the discovery that their child could fly--and the paranoia if anyone else finds out.  

No, what had sealed her fate was that moment when she decided to lie to her husband about the baby’s wings. It was no longer the three of them against the world, but mother and child against everyone else.

And from there, we see these mothers' sanity slip. But consequences reverberate, and we see the husbands having to bear the brunt of this, while not understanding why their wives shut them out. Hell, in Pete's case, husband of Theresa Ratcher and father of Elli, he gets accused of molesting his own daughter!

Now the text isn't clear if this is a case of mass hysteria, bewitchment, or maybe something in the water. Lois Tilton took issue with this because the ambiguity was more frustrating than interesting. If it's bewitchment, why did the Stranger do it? I don't know, but the fact that he drives a hearse should give you a sense of foreshadowing.

To me, it didn't matter. The Mothers are insane, so nothing they do is going to make much sense,  even when they act in self-preservation for the sake of their babies--and granted, they have some reason for this because people like Pete see the babies as sick animals that need to be put down--they go waaaay over-the-top.

There in lies some of the problem. The ending goes completely off the rails, almost to the point of a farce. It's just ludicrous. I can sort of understand why, not in terms of the story itself, but rather, the limits of the horror genre. There can only be so many conclusions to a horror story: the protagonist defeats the evil, the protagonist succumbs to evil, or the protagonist is the evil. As a result, I think horror writers have been struggling to come up with new ways to wow editors, and not fall into predictability. In this case, perhaps the author was trying to go out with as much of a bang as possible, despite the soft plea of the Mothers at the end.

For me personally, I would've preferred seeing the consequences extend, first the mothers, then the family unit, then to society overall. I pictured the Mothers becoming a secret society--probably because I find secret societies creepy as hell--lording over the town, sending their babies to terrorize any who dare speak out. After all, something like this must have had an impact on small town life, and if the foreshadowing is true, then the Stranger may have intended to end such a way of life.

And no, I don't think the babies were perfectly innocent. They may not be monsters yet, but they seemed to have the potential, seeing as they did chew two human beings to death, one of them being a mother. Still, the Mothers protect their young.

So I think that wraps things up. If you read "The Mothers of Voorhisville" and have any of your own insights, feel free to share them in the comment section. I wouldn't let the ending deter you from reading this (in case you haven't), because of course that's my opinion. All I know is that I didn't feel it worked for this particular piece. 


  1. Well, now you've got me curious. I'll have to check it out. Interesting take on horror endings -- never thought of it that way before. But you're right, methinks.

    1. Yeah, it's a good enough story, though maybe a tad on the long side.

      I've heard it before about horror endings, and from my experience and own writing (couple times editors have said the horror ending was predictable), I find it to be true.