I came across Catherine Lacey’s “Mother’s Helper: A Shocking Thing I Learned After Giving Up My Eggs” while looking for information on how to sell my chickens’ eggs. Obviously this article was not what I was looking for, and it was strange to know that Google had automatically assumed that by “eggs” I meant the ones that I was producing myself, but the title was so obviously click bait that I couldn’t resist.
Catherine Lacey structures her piece very chronologically so that when you pull open your browser she’s right there with you, hitting you with the juicy opening paragraph to ensure that you actually want to figure out how and why her hook came into being. Her choice to go chronologically and take a straightforward approach was a smart one for such an involved and broad topic. When she discovers new information, we discover new information. When we start wondering if she’ll say yes or no, she makes a decision. When we remember the boyfriend, she tells us he’s gone. She allows us to follow along on her journey so that we don’t get lost in her attempts to tackle big questions in a short time.
Unlike many of the pieces we’ve read on websites such as Brevity, Lacey uses literary devices sparingly, opting to instead rely on her own writing style and story to be enough to keep readers interested. She does, however, use imagery and snarky metaphors at very effective moments. She compares the way the doctor asking her questions reacts to her the way one might to
…a sunroof on a car you might buy or a washer-dryer in a potential apartment. Grad school is a leather interior, a pool in the backyard.
Her humor almost always comes at the end of a paragraph or idea as a version of relief for the readers, but many times those reliefs are merely superficial. For instance, that same quote has an underlying tone of parried insult; to be regarded as only a grouping of optimal genes is an uncomfortable but necessary evil for the narrator. This decision to leave a subject just introduced and not analyzed fully is very intriguing. Lacey presented us with a concept that could have easily taken up a full page of her inner struggle to comprehend, and yet she chooses to instead thinly disguise it in a simile to give the reader the chance to decide whether or not they want to dive further into that conflict.
Another interesting tactic she makes use of is small diction related cues. Through tracking the recurrence of possessive adjectives, references to money, and family, you see how she slowly bleeds her topics together so family makes frequent appearances and then slowly fades out while money begins to emerge so you as a reader don’t question her shift from questioning the role of herself as a parent to struggling with trying to justify the people who would pay the amount of money they are for a kid. Because both are such large and controversial topics, it would have been easy for Lacey to go on long tangents, but instead she demonstrates a conscious and clever control over how much of her own opinions she allows into the piece and the length at which she speaks of it.
Overall, despite the daunting length of this article and the seemingly shallow topic it covers, Lacey proves herself to be adept at brilliant brevity. With precise and measured information, she manages to relate exactly what she experienced and how she felt without forcing the reader to feel exactly what she was. Her piece stands to be a wonderful example of leaving the audience room to question their stances and her decisions for themselves.