After two exceedingly good novels (Liars and Saints was shortlisted for the Orange Prize), Maile Meloy has returned with a full collection of the terse, emotionally compact short stories that she nails with precision and grace. This collection is loaded with daddy issues. Taken together, they create an interesting arc about the effect of a father’s love or lack thereof on young girls: The daughter of a single father is unnerved when he can’t protect her; a father confronts the girlfriend of his daughter’s killer; two brothers, a ski bum and a bourgeois doctor, despise one another but compete over their fierce love for the doctor’s teenage daughter, whom he regards as “the best thing had ever done.” Meanwhile, a wealthy Argentinian patriarch who discovers his former mistress is now working as maid, can look at his two indulged daughters and think that “children were experiments and his had failed.” Many of these stories take place in Meloy’s native Montana, with its big skies, vast spaces, and freakish summer snow. She is particularly deft when describing men of few words and compelling actions: In “Travis B.,” a small-town ranch hand courts a big-city lawyer by showing up to take her to dinner on his horse. And in the exceptional “Lovely Rita,” a young factory worker, confronted with death and a love he can’t quite seem to grasp or even acknowledge, chooses to exile himself from his home as a way to distance himself from regret. Each one of these stories is a tiny, perfectly crafted masterpiece.
About the Writer
Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review.