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Out of all of the stories that I have read in Vaughn’s book, “My Mother Breathing Light” is definitely my favorite so far.  What makes this story so compelling is the emphasis on specific words and their pragmatic and semantic meanings.  The story opens already introducing this concept, saying, “My mother cannot say the word cancer. A year ago, after an operation to remove a tumor at the juncture of her small and large intestines, she used the word blockage to explain what the problem had been. “ This is absolutely fantastic because immediately, there is a clear sense of her mother’s attitude on the matter along with a defined relationship between the mother and the narrator.  They are extremely close, close enough for the mother to tell the daughter that she is dealing with cancer when no one else in the family knows.  They are tied together as a united front against whatever they have to face.

Another thing that I think was really well done in this story is the continuing presence of family secrets.  Using different words to describe much more serious diseases is one way where the family, as in the mother and the daughter, keep the secret to themselves.  Also, secrets are discussed again when there is a flashback to the father planning life for his wife and daughter after he dies. He trusts his daughter to keep his secret for him in order to protect and take care of his wife.  Later, when the mother attempts to sell fragrances, the father refuses to discuss how stupid the idea is in public. This is another secret, the secret of a married couple and keeping confrontation away from everybody else.  All of the secrets of the family are for protection.

Towards the end of the story, there was much more emphasis on how important the time she has left with her mother is. They finally stop talking in words that don’t actually mean what they are and they talk about what they are going to do to help face the cancer.  This impending death that looms over the narrators thoughts and words is so painfully obvious that it literally made me call my mother and tell her that I missed her.  Regardless of whether or not someone is dying of cancer, when parent’s get older I think all children start to think about some of the things mentioned in the book. They want to do all of these adventurous things that they never accomplished and then they start to appreciate the simple, daily family happenings.  The last line is absolutely brilliant, because once again, words are deceiving.  The daughter says, “’It’s all right,’ I say to my mother, holding her close in the fog. Everything will be all right.”’ This is such a lie, and it is so painful because more than anything we want it to be true.

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