Kate Walbert’s new story collection, “She Was Like That” (out Tuesday), is an intense look at women searching — often fruitlessly — for companionship, while striving to hold on to their dreams.
The works span the New York native’s writing career, with four new stories and eight that were previously published over the past 20-plus years, including two from her debut collection.
Some of these women lean on their children for camaraderie, others the anonymity of strangers; some embrace new friendships, others have a drink. No matter the results, there is no giving up here. These women all cope and survive. But their anxiety, struggle, disappointment and exhaustion are real. They worry about what they didn’t do or aren’t doing or will miss, because of motherhood or husbands, misogyny or simply their inability to always be true to themselves.
Mothers loom large in many of these tales, particularly the older ones, whose standouts include “Playdate,” where two moms need the release more than their kids, and “Slow the Heart,” where a single mom barely holds it together.
The new stories feature women trying to get through the day. In the incredibly poignant “A Mother is Someone Who Tells Jokes,” a worn-out mom reflects on her past as her adult son, who was diagnosed with autism in kindergarten, lives largely in his vivid imagination.
The title story is the best, and most fantastical, of the bunch. It follows a widowed college professor driving around NYC during a storm and picking up strangers. While there’s little chance New Yorkers would jump into a random car hailing them from the curb — and then chitchat openly with the driver — the resulting interactions provide a glimmer of hope, for both the professor and the reader, a hope that somehow we won’t have to weather life’s storms all alone.