The Structure of Bubbles

A Story

by Emily Raboteau

Emily, your story is great. It made the past swin in the present. I admire your craft. It's transcendent.

Dear Emily,

What trust in the intelligence and emotional range of the reader. The "layering," as another commentator aptly puts it, is deliciously complex yet beautifully paced and clear as bear tracks in snow.

It's the unspoken that most elicits feeling, especially in the mother and daughter. Thank you for bringing this particular gold-piece to my awareness.

I loved your story; it is beautifully written; it is intoxicating, pulling a reader into it and not letting go. Similar to Mansfield's “The Fly,” your story gives in-depth character development in a short literary work. The strong characters make a reader form an emotional connection to your work.

The saying goes, We all become our parents. And early on in your story it is apparent that the narrator, Emma, struggles with this truth. She not only refuses to believe she looks like her mother, but tries to point out specific ways she is different. Emma sees her mother as plain, unimportant, and a constant caretaker. From Emma’s obvious discontent with her mother’s life, the truth is that it is not that Emma does not want to look like her mother but rather she does not want to become her.

Through Aunt Patty telling the story of how Emma’s parents met, Emma is shown her mother’s strongest characteristics, her hard work (through two jobs in college) and her intelligence (writing the physics paper about bubbles). The story of their meeting does not end how Emma wanted it to. . . . Emma fails to see the romantic and good side of her parents' meeting. Emma seems to consider herself an outcast. The loss of her brother changed everyone in her family. Her mother’s hair turned white, and she became old, and her father left. The story is intriguing because it is about much more than a girl discovering how her parents met. The political activism taking place during her parents' college years led to further complications in their relationship and in Emma’s life. Through the story, as readers, we see Emma gradually gain respect for her mother. She had only thought of her mother as a mother, and a librarian. Emma’s experience in the past leads her to see her mother, and . . . by the end, Emma no longer fears becoming her mother.

With bubbles made from water and soap, the soap stabilizes the bubble by strengthening the weakest parts of it. Without soap, the bubble is fragile and does not last long. Emma was a bubble that lacked a stabilizing factor. Even when her father, Bernard, was around, he did not acknowledge her.

The people around her focused on her older brother Bernie. In comparison to him, she was invisible. Emma would have done anything to make her father love her, and because he did not, she was jealous of her mother, Lynn. Emma wants to be Lynn because her father really loved her once. At the same time, Emma is constantly saying how she does not want to be anything like her mother because she somehow drove Bernard away. . .

Bernie showed Emma the love that she did not get from Bernard, but even Bernie abandoned her. Without her father and brother, she struggled to define herself . . .

A father is said to be a woman’s first love regardless of the experience with him. An absent father is still very present. “The Structure of Bubbles” shows how children of both sexes and all ages want to please their fathers, even if they are no longer around.

Emily Raboteau does an amazing job portraying Emma’s co-dependence and need for love. Through the persistent flashbacks concerning her childhood and the complete submersion into a fantasy where she is not invisible to her father, Raboteau exposes how much her main character needed support.

I'm left thinking about race and identity. How magical when our changing sense of self is colored with new shades while engaged in viewing our situation from multiple standpoints. Raboteau's imagination inspires me. Emma is many Emmas. I want to know them all.

Through in-depth character development and heightened complexity of interpersonal relationships, “The Structure of Bubbles” establishes a true emotional connection between the reader and the story. As a reader, I feel and pay attention to Raboteau’s artfully selected words. This is how all literature should read.

Who would have thought that the structures of bubbles could be used to explain the identity of an individual? Emma and Matilda may be like their mother, but as Raboteau's work illustrates, they both have the power to break free and "pop the bubble."

This story has many discussion points for our short story group, and so many facets to consider.


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