Ross’s characters are real—flawed, overanxious, exhausted women just trying to navigate the challenges of motherhood, selfhood, neighborhood ... The writing throughout this collection is compelling; the dialogue is especially authentic. But what really propels this group of stories is that Ross’s characters invite us into their most vulnerable moments and confess the kinds of imperfections that keep plenty of mothers awake at night.
Some of Ross’s best moments are dropping tidbits of information that make the stable become unsteady. She is expert at dispensing unexpected information at just the right moment ... Ross’s dialogue, too, is spectacular, both realistic and cutting ... Dropped alive into boiling water feels an apt metaphor for the making of a mother, and for these stories.
As the title aptly suggests, there is no 'one size fits all' narrative to accommodate the experience of motherhood, and Ross is wary of the pat or consensual ... Ross has a keen eye for images ... Ross’s aversion to neat, easy answers is complemented by a gift for dramatizing evidence to the contrary. This is the source of her subtlety. Many of the stories have open, Chekhovian endings. The comfort of resolution is not nearly as interesting as the surprise and mystery arising from observable ambiguity ... Consistently inventive and sometimes provocative, Shapeshifting is an accomplished collection of short stories ... Ross’s writing probes and tests assumptions that we often take for granted, and raises questions that will leave the reader musing, long after a story is finished.