Can You Wave Bye Bye, Baby?

The title story of Can You Wave Bye Bye, Baby?, the first book by Montreal author Elyse Gasco, won the 1996 Canadian Journey Prize, one of the most prestigious and lucrative ($10,000) awards given to a beginning writer of short fiction. Since the publication of Gasco’s story collection, she has won several other awards, all of which has critics hailing the 33-year-old Canadian as a significant new talent.

Gasco joins the ranks of a number of turn-of-the-century women writers, such as Lorrie Moore, Pam Houston, and Melissa Banks, who combine hip, witty language with significant women’s themes to elicit reader identification and sympathy while avoiding both surface seriousness and sentimentality. The result is stories that hover uncertainly between the stuff of slick womens’ magazines and serious literary quarterlies.

Linked by theme rather than plot or character, the stories feature such situations as a young adopted woman who tries to imagine her birth mother’s experience, a girl kidnapped from her adoptive parents by her birth father, and an adoptive mother who makes up stories for her teenage daughter about her real mother. The title story focuses on a young single mother who purposely distances herself from her baby so that the child is taken from her by social services. It is the best example in the book of Gasco’s ability to make readers identify and sympathize with her characters, even as they cluck their tongues in disapproval. The problem of many of the stories is that what is meant to be unsentimental honesty sometimes results in being just brittle glibness.