When I received a review copy of Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, the latest collection of short fiction by acclaimed author Maile Meloy, now available in paperback, I already knew what to expect. I hadn’t read her first story collection, Half in Love, or her two novels, Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter but I knew. Oh I knew all right. I knew all about it, and I had her pegged.
After all, critics everywhere were drooling all over her work, calling her a natural-born storyteller, praising her sparse but striking prose and her clear-sighted yet deceptive talent for writing realistic stories as both a novelist and a short fiction writer…And I knew.
Of course she was a bestselling author, and her list of awards I knew would be impressive…And I was dead-on right. Even Oprah had her latest book on the list of hot summer reads for 2010, and I knew. I knew!
But then I started reading the first of the eleven short stories In Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It and, before I knew it, I was on page 20 and completely immersed in the story and invested in its characters as if I was reading a novel, a really good novel. The tension was real, and I checked to see how many pages were left. Only five! What was going to happen? How would it end? I didn’t know. I had no idea.
I started over and reread the first 20 pages, thinking I had missed something. I hadn’t. It was all there. All that was left was the conclusion that I both wanted and didn’t want to know.
I repeated this process with most of the stories in this excellent collection of fiction – stories which were mostly about the difficult process of making decisions and the lingering effects left behind (sometimes for life) by the choices we do make.
There’s a broken, lonely, but romantic Montana cowboy whose chance encounter with a young lawyer could be the chance of a lifetime. There’s a father whose 15 year-old daughter’s innocence is the only barrier in possibly securing a witness for his brother’s big legal case. There’s another father who seeks answers about his daughter’s murder straight from the murderer’s girlfriend. There are stories about adultery, about sibling rivalry, and even one about whether or not a friend of a dead colleague should help his girlfriend raffle off her body in order to get the money she needs to get out of town for a chance at a better life.
Bottom line: Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy lives up to the hype. It’s a powerful collection of short stories that you’ll finish long before they’re finished with you.
If you’d like to meet Maile Meloy in person, she’ll be discussing and signing her book at 7 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, July 13, at:
Barnes & Noble Bookstore
1201 3rd Street, at Wilshire
(On the 3rd Street Promenade).
You can also learn more about Meloy and her work at her official website.
The LA Books Examiner had the great opportunity to interview Maile Meloy about her work and her life. Please take a few more minutes to read the revealing Q & A at Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.