“Trivia is trivia and must remain so in a world of sorrow” (p. 80) Amy Gordon’s father-in-law assures her. Yet a principal message of Bread and Milk, a collection of eight short stories, is that much of the joy of life is bound up with these very trivia.
Amy Gordon, the Mormon pioneer woman whose life the stories trace, lived in a time when happiness lay in contentment, not excitement. The commonplace happenings in the stories—daily chores, small moments of forgiveness, a May Festival—are the secure, precious givens of existence that enable Amy and her family to accept life, even in its tragic moments, with equanimity and thankfulness. A story might focus on nothing more earthshaking than the teenage Amy’s secret wish to be chosen May Queen, or her reluctance several years later, as the young wife of Israel Gordon, to announce her first pregnancy. When major events do occur, they appear, as they do in life, against the backdrop of the everyday: the death of Amy’s little sister coincides with a magician’s visit to the town, and Amy’s own death is set alongside her preoccupation with sorting and recording her memories.