Corrine Manning
The Other Mother

A review of

The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Vaselka. Knopf Penguin/Random House (Bertelsmann) 2020

In Steinbeck’s East of Eden, an indecent woman comes gives birth to a set of twins: one cheats poor farmers to make back money for his father, one drops out of college and is eventually killed in World War I. Before all that can happen the sociopathic mother tells the cheating son that they are just alike but he refuses to believe it. He brings his altruistic brother to meet her and the shame he inflicts upon her is the end of her life. These characters are a mix of settlers: early colonial era, as well as recent Irish and Chinese immigrants. Of these settlers, only one set achieves whiteness in America. All benefit from stolen land. All think they have a choice like Cain and Abel. They can choose righteousness or they can choose sin. This is supposed to be freedom; that they can undo generational harm.