Ward's powerful first collection (after three novels) travels from Montana to Saudi Arabia, tackling love, terrorism and grave matters of the heart. In "The Stars Are Bright in Texas," Kimmy and Greg, days after losing a child, fly to Houston and tool around with a realtor, looking for a new home. In "The Way the Sky Changed," Casey, a literary agent and 9/11 widow, gets set up with Kent, who lost his wife on 9/11. They go antiquing and eat cheeseburgers, considering loss and filling another's shoes. The second half of the book includes six stories following a young woman named Lola's frantic search for herself. In one, her boyfriend leaves her for Miss Montana, and she finds solace with a bartender. In another, Lola becomes an "oil wife" in Saudi Arabia, where her growing fears of terrorism are leavened by thoughts of motherhood. We meet Lola's mother, Nan, a fading beauty now dependent on her hairdresser for companionship, and Lola's thrice-divorced father, Fred, with his "cigars and cheese-only diet" and ongoing search for true love. The way Ward balances ruefulness and hope is singularly impressive. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Love Stories in This Townby Amanda Eyre Ward
From San Francisco to Savannah, Montana to Texas, Amanda Eyre Ward’s characters are united in their fervent search to find a place where they truly belong. Annie, a librarian in a small mining town, must choose between the only home she’s ever known and the possibility of a new future. Casey, a suburban New Yorker with a wry sense of humor, braves the… See more details below
From San Francisco to Savannah, Montana to Texas, Amanda Eyre Ward’s characters are united in their fervent search to find a place where they truly belong. Annie, a librarian in a small mining town, must choose between the only home she’s ever known and the possibility of a new future. Casey, a suburban New Yorker with a wry sense of humor, braves the dating scene after losing her husband. And in six linked stories spanning a decade of her life, Lola Wilkerson navigates elopement, motherhood, and lingering questions about who she wants to be when she grows up. Whether exploring the fierceness of a mother’s love or the consolations of marriage, Amanda Eyre Ward’s stories are imbued with humor, clear-eyed insight, and emotional richness.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
By now, 9/11 has established itself as a marker in modern literature. Ward uses it to touching effect in the first story in this lovely collection about ordinary people trying to find meaningful love. The "When do we start a family?" chat begun by Zelda and her husband is ambushed by her need to get Cipro in case of an anthrax attack. Small, efficient gestures are evident in "Butte as in Beautiful" when the class valedictorian bypasses college for a job at the local library and a brief, half-hearted engagement. Parental abandonment and miscarriage are front and center in "The Stars Are Bright in Texas." Six beautifully rendered stories track a decade in the life of Lola, whose beau leaves her for a pregnant Miss Montana. Lola then elopes and must struggle with life in Saudi Arabia as an "oil man's wife," where fabulous incomes are no match for the suffocating restrictions imposed on women. Back in the United States, the demands of children and reduced circumstances take a not unfamiliar toll on her marriage. Ward's often bewildered characters' efforts to keep trying to get it right is romantic courage at its most vulnerable. Strongly recommended.
Beth E. Andersen
“Dazzling . . . Amanda Eyre Ward proves once again that she knows just where to strike: the heart, the mind, and the funny bone.”—Michelle Richmond, bestselling author of No One You Know
“Wisecracking, whip-smart, and utterly beguiling, Amanda Eyre Ward’s Love Stories in This Town is one part Chekhov, one part Patsy Cline, all told with a confident, hip-cocking charm that’s completely her own.”—Justin Cronin, author of The Summer Guest
“Though the sharp-witted young women in these beautiful stories all live in the present day, their struggles for love and family are the stuff of classic literature.”—Vendela Vida, author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
“Looking at contemporary life through Ward’s eyes, you are suddenly aware of just how strange and mysterious our supposedly ordinary lives have become.”—Dan Chaon, author of Among the Missing
"Ward has a heart for women, as all of her previous work will attest; these stories underscore that fact. Where issues of domesticity and maternity are often dismissed or idealized in the cultural imagination, Ward here makes an argument for how very important such matters are with characters written so intricately and carefully that they are very nearly real themselves, in all their ambivalence and agony....This is Ward's gift: She makes writing about being human and female look easy while simultaneously inviting empathy for the female experience in these complicated times."—Austin Chronicle
“(Starred) In her first collection, novelist Ward (Forgive Me, 2008, etc.) gently and discreetly invites us into her characters’ lives…. Luminous work from a gifted writer.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“New mothers, young brides, jilted lovers, devoted wives. What roles do women choose, what paths do they take when falling in and out of love? Even if the way is clearly marked, it can still be full of unseen opportunities and obstacles, as Ward so adroitly demonstrates in a collection of 12 lustrous short stories....A mesmerizing, read-in-one-sitting foray into the complexities of contemporary love.”—Booklist
“Ward’s powerful first collection (after three novels) travels from Montana to Saudi Arabia, tackling love, terrorism and grave matters of the heart…. The way Ward balances ruefulness and hope is singularly impressive.”—Publishers Weekly
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Love Stories in This Town
By Amanda Eyre Ward
Copyright © 2009
Amanda Eyre Ward
All right reserved.
Should I Be Scared?
I first heard about Cipro at the potluck.
“Thank God I’ve got Cipro,” said Zelda. “My doctor prescribed it for a urinary tract infection, and I still have half the pills.”
“Cipro?” I said, my mouth full of artichoke dip.
“Honey,” said Zelda, “where have you been?”
It was a cold, clear night in Austin, Texas. After the disgusting heat of summer, the cool was a balm. Zelda wore a giant sweater, knit loosely from rough, rusty-colored wool. She stood next to the barbecue, holding her hands in front of the hot coals. In the kitchen, my husband and his scientist friends concocted an elaborate marinade.
“Anthrax,” whispered Zelda. She had just begun to date my husband’s thesis advisor, and lent an air of glamour to departmental potlucks.
“Excuse me?” I said. I took a large sip of wine, which had come from a cardboard box.
“Ciprofloxacin,” clarified Zelda, hissing over the syllables. “It’s the anthrax vaccine. A super-antibiotic. If we’re dropped on by, like, a crop duster, Cipro is what you’ll need. And,” she lowered her voice again, “there isn’t enough for everyone.”
Zelda wore scarves and held her wineglass with her hands wrappedaround the bowl. When she sipped, her eyes peered over the top, bright coins. She wore high leather boots and worked in a steel building downtown for a company that made expensive software. She had described her job to me: “It’s an output management solution, and I market it. It connects the world.” We had no idea why Zelda wanted to spend her evenings, which could obviously be spent in snazzier locales, with us. We wore Birkenstocks.
I was a scientist’s wife. This title pleased me. I also worked at Ceramic City, where people could paint their own pottery. My title at Ceramic City was “color consultant.” This title did not please me. I was trying to figure out what to do with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology, with a focus on the egalitarian foragers of the Kalahari Desert.
“Oh,” I said to Zelda, regarding the Cipro. It was times like this that I felt lucky to have a scientist for a husband. I could ask him later for details, and he would not laugh at me. He explained things patiently, drawing circles and arrows on the margins of the newspaper.
“Hey, ladies!” said a dark figure, emerging from the kitchen. It was my husband’s thesis advisor. “Is that fire ready for some birds?”
Zelda smiled charmingly. The light from the coals made her look a little scary when she turned to me.
“Get some for yourself,” she said in a quiet voice. “I’m serious,” she said, and then she turned her face up to meet her lover’s lips.
My husband explained in the dark of our bedroom that ingesting expensive antibiotics for no reason was a bad course of action. We had pulled the covers over our heads and invited the cat into the warm cave. My husband called the cat “spelunker,” saying, “What do you think, little spelunker? Do you think we should let the terrorists make us afraid? Do you think we should buy canned goods and a six-day supply of water?” (The last was in reference to my actions of the previous day, when I had arrived home with twenty-eight cans of Progresso soup and three gallons of water.)
This was the beginning of the War on Terrorism.
Two weeks before, we had discussed what to eat for dinner and if we were drinking too much beer. We had talked about having a baby, mowing the lawn, and what sort of dog we should adopt. (My husband was partial to standard poodles, and I liked little dogs that could sit in your lap or in your purse. If you carried a purse.)
In those days—which seemed impossibly bright now, ?untarnished—we had talked idly about what sort of fishing rod my husband should buy with his jar of quarters. My husband came home each night, took the change from his pants pocket, and dropped it into a large water jug; he claimed he had done this since he was six years old, and the first time the jug filled (right before I met him), he bought a canoe. The canoe! He loved it ferociously. He named the canoe after me, wrote my name in Wite-Out on the side. One night, when I was reading and he was asleep, he spoke. “You’re the best,” he said, his arms around my waist, squeezing. I checked: he was in dreamland, speaking from that place. “You’re the best,” he repeated. “You’re the best, best, best canoe in the world.”
In the end, we had decided that we wanted a baby more than a dog or a fishing rod, and we had thrown away my birth control pills and made love slowly, with the moon shining a soft light over us.
Things had changed so quickly and forcefully that it seemed to me my husband hadn’t quite accepted the fact that we were in danger. I lay in bed in the mornings now, hearing helicopters and listening to the news.
“Your dad is making fun of me,” I told the cat under the covers. I began to cry a little, and my husband said he was sorry.
The next morning, from behind the counter at Ceramic City, I called Dr. Fern. The first time the nurse answered, I hung up. I was alone in Ceramic City, but I did not know what to say to the nurse. Was I being crazy? I wanted to think so. My mother, who lived in Connecticut and had gone to three funerals for her friends’ sons, told me that it was unpatriotic to want some Cipro for myself. When I told her I was afraid to get out of bed, she said, “That’s just how the terrorists want you to feel.”
I called Dr. Fern again. This time, when the nurse answered, I said that I would like to make an appointment.
“Issue?” said the nurse.
“Excuse me?” I said. A man peeked into the window of Ceramic City. I thought, Fuck.
“What is the issue,” said the nurse, “that you need to see the doctor about?”
“Uh, I’d like to get a prescription,” I said.
“For ciprofloxacin,” I said. The peeking man came inside and began to wander around, inspecting Personalized Pottery.
“Beg pardon?” said the nurse. Was she instructed not to use full sentences?
“In case of an anthrax attack on America,” I said, “I would like to have my own supply of antibiotics.” The man was holding a blue bowl painted with fish. He stared at me.
“Oh my,” said the nurse.
“Well, so,” I said. I put my hand over the mouthpiece. “Can I be of assistance?” I asked the man.
“My wife’s birthday is Tuesday,” he said.
“One moment, please,” I said. The nurse told me that she would have to consult with the doctor and get back to me. She took my number. When I hung up the phone, I saw that the man had put the bowl back on the shelf.
“Should I be scared?” he asked. .??.??.
The nurse called later that afternoon and explained in no uncertain terms that the doctor would not give me the drugs I had requested. She added that it was against every tenet of the medical establishment to prescribe drugs when a patient was not ill. I hung up the phone, instead of saying, “You self-important bitch.” At home that evening, I cried again.
My husband watched me skeptically. We were eating Freebird burritos, sitting on our front porch and peeling off aluminum foil in small, metal circles. “We’re not going to get anthrax,” said my husband. He made a sound that I would classify as an incredulous snort.
“I know!” I said. I bit into my burrito, which I had ordered with extra guacamole. Extras were a dollar, and usually I refrained, but I had the feeling that I should live life to the fullest, and make a celebration of every day.
“And I want you to stop watching so much television,” said my husband. He had been talking, it seemed, for some time. I nodded, and he turned his head toward me, squinting as if I were a scientific mystery. “Oh, honey,” he said.
Nonetheless, I did watch television that night after my husband had fallen asleep. I sat in the front room in my pajamas, watching bombs and food rations fall. I drank a warm glass of milk and watched dirty children rip open bags of Pop-Tarts and jam them into their mouths.
The next day, I discovered an advertisement for Cipro on the back page of the Austin Chronicle. There it was, sandwiched between a massage therapist and a Spanish tutor: cipro available 1-800-cipronow. (The last “W,” it seemed, was for effect.) Ceramic City was empty again, and I picked up the phone.
Excerpted from Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward Copyright © 2009 by Amanda Eyre Ward. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
AMANDA EYRE WARD is the author of three novels: Sleep Towards Heaven, How to Be Lost, and Forgive Me. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their two sons.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Love Stories in This Town is a smart and insightful look at women and the infinite number of ways they love. There are women loving their husbands, boyfriends, parents, and babies. There are women leaving for love or staying, being heartbroken or up-lifted, letting go of their dreams or clinging to them fiercely. The breadth of the stories is impressive and yet Amanda Eyre Ward somehow manages to get the feel in each one right. The stories are sharp, but also a little mysterious and beautiful, like love itself. I especially liked the series of stories about Lola, following her through life as she experiences different kinds of love and as her love for each person in her life matures and changes. I felt like each story offered up a subtle lesson and I often could relate to what the characters were going through. I didn't love this book quite as much as Amanda Ward Eyre's novels, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I picked up this book thinking it would be a series of love stories between couples with different plots and endings. What I got was completely different. For me, all the characters were slightly neurotic. I couldn't identify with them at all and their stories didn't have much to do with love at all. I'd give this book a zero if I could.
Amanda pulled me into the book quickly, with her wit and sense of hope. I love the series of stories about Lola, where I got a good pictures of how a woman can change over the course of her life, and how she can love differently, yet perfectly, each time. My only complaint is that the book was over so soon. I read it quickly, and was hungry for more.