Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy is a short story collection that started out so strong I didn't want to read just one story per day so I let myself often go for two stories a day and then toward the end I just plowed my way through the latter half. 

I think if there's a common thread in Both Ways, it's about longing for something, particularly love, but not always getting what you want. 

What surprised me was how much tension Meloy managed to inject into what seemed like perfectly mundane situations. For example, in "Travis, B.", a loner who works doing labor on various ranches wanders into an adult education classroom just to be around other people and finds himself besotted with the teacher. They start going to the cafe after class but both know it can come to nothing. And, she's a little afraid of him. He's a little afraid of himself, as well.

He got afraid of himself that winter; he sensed something dangerous that would break free if he kept so much alone. [p. 3]

So, when she doesn't show up to teach class and he tracks her down, the tension crackles. 

In "O Tannenbaum" a family picks up a couple who oddly are named Bonnie and Clyde. Wife Pam is nervous. They could be axe murderers! She has a child to think about. Husband Everett seems to be pushing his wife's buttons and knowingly taking risks, even inviting the couple to their home to help put up the Christmas tree, which Bonnie said she's never done before. The tension comes not only in the fact that they don't know if the story Bonnie and Clyde tell about a broken ski and a missing car is true or not but also in Everett's clear attraction to Bonnie while Bonnie and Clyde are not, shall we say, in perfect harmony. 

Recommended - Maile Meloy's writing is very disciplined, with no wasted words, and she does such a bang-up job of building tension that I found myself wanting to read more by her, in spite of the fact that I eventually grew a little weary of this collection because there were a few too many stories of adultery for my taste. I looked her up and discovered that she has a YA trilogy that begins with a book called The Apothecary. I'm still holding to my commitment not to buy books (or check them out from the library) so The Apothecary went straight onto the wish list and I'll be watching for it in 2022. 

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