Book Quote:

“The knowledge broke over Aaron in a wave, through his oxygenated good mood. They were bound like two dogs with their tails tied together, unable to move without having some opposite effect on the other, unable to live a single restful minute without feeling the inevitable tug.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (AUG 26, 2009)

I want to preface this review by stating that I am a fan of Maile Meloy, having read and loved both of her novels. It is always a bit of a challenge for me to pick up and read a book of short stories by a favorite author. There are so many ways that things can go flat, so many chances. In this book, however, the stories all soar. One is better than the next. Each is a gem in its own right. I was wowed!

The pervasive theme that runs through the book is that of conflicted emotions:   impulse versus. rationalism, fear versus curiosity, pull versus push, loyalty versus betrayal, and  giving versus taking.

The book opens with a short poem as its preface:

One can’t
have it

both ways
and both

ways is
the only

way I
want it.

– – – A.R. Amons

This pretty well sums up the challenges facing the characters in these tightly tuned stories by Ms. Meloy.

The first story, “Travis, B.,” is about a ranch hand who inadvertently walks into a class about school law. He falls for the teacher and pursues her though he knows she is beyond his attainment.  “Red from Green” is about the complexities of growing up and becoming an adolescent, and the push and pull, along with the curiosity about desires.  “Spy vs. Spy” is about the on-going adult conflicts between two brothers who try repeatedly to connect, wanting to be closer while pushing each other away. They appear to keep changing sides. “Two-step” is about two-timing and adultery told in a marvelously eye-rolling way. A married couple uses the two-step dance as a way to resolve discord. However, the discord in this story is not likely to be resolved by any dance. “The Girlfriend” is a tragic story about the girlfriend of a murderer and the father of the murder victim. The father wants more information about the murder and tries to get it from the girlfriend. He ends up getting much more than he bargained for. The need to know outweighed his ability to realize how much he’d be able to cope with.

“Nine” is about a nine-year-old girl observing her mother’s loneliness and love affairs, growing to understand the risks that one will take, and the information one will ignore, to avoid loneliness. She learns about cruelty and betrayal at a very young age.  “O Tannenbaum” is about a couple and their child who pick up two hitchhikers named Bonnie and Clyde, realizing they may have put themselves at risk in the desire to be generous and trusting during the Christmas season.

At the end of one of the stories is a very telling line. “All the while, Everett felt both the threat of disorder and the steady, thrumming promise of having everything he wanted, all at once.”  This line could sum up a lot of the stories in this book.

All the stories are excellent. There is not one dud in the book. I loved it.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 22 readers
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Hardcover (July 9, 2009)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AMAZON PAGE: Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read a review of … Half in Love

And more short story collections:

You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett

The Species Crown by Curtis Smith

Simple Recipes by Madeleine Thien


August 26, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Short Stories

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