The Hurricane of my Mother and Other Likely Stories, a collection of essays by Bill Murphy, is divided into chapters with catchy headings. I have a confession to make: I did not read every essay. The chapter on sports didn’t do a thing for me, but then again the only baseball team I ever followed was the Montreal Expos (and that says a lot about me). Murphy's prose is strongest when he writes about his interactions with his family and friends. The old adage “write what you know” serves the author well.
The first chapter, “It’s My Family and I’ll Cry If I Want To” is appropriately titled, and the anecdotes Murphy relates about his family life -- or should I say family strife -- are bang on. Anyone who has ever grown up in a family, or lived next door to one, will appreciate the wit and humour in Murphy’s collection. The titular essay is a compassionate story about his experience with his mother during Hurricane Andrew. Murphy’s mother is sent from her Florida home to stay with him in New York, out of harm’s way, and Murphy and mom wait out Hurricane Andrew in his miniscule New York apartment.
His mother has an Alzheimer-like condition called Korsakov’s Syndrome, which seems to involve memory loss and the inability to contextualize information about her surroundings. While staying with Murphy she comes to believe that she is still in Florida, and that the apartment is hers and he is her guest. In the end, the brother who weathered out the actual hurricane in Florida is in better shape, emotionally and psychologically, than Murphy who “weathered the Hurricane that was his mother.”
“On the Road” is another favorite chapter, maybe because I too have a prehistoric Volkswagen and can relate to Murphy and his ’84 Rabbit; “Me and My Car” is
also a particular favorite. Murphy’s observational humor gets to the heart of humanity in the chapter “A Friend in Need is Likely.” In his essays on friendship and the passage of time, the piece entitled “Ed” handles how a friendship changes when one gets married. The concept of friendship, the gradual acceptance and exchange of personalities that occur over the years, is poignant and true. Don't be put off by the title of “Domestic Disputes" -- this isn’t an episode of Cops. Murphy muses
instead about searching for a job and having a day off, and answers that age-old question: What is the difference between day and night?
The essays in are short; they can be read in less than 15 minutes and enjoyed for hours after. But some of the stories just didn’t do it for me, and at least two chapters didn’t interest me in the least, but that’s my personal taste (or lack thereof). In all, this collection of stories will make readers appreciate all the weird and wonderful people in their own lives.