In Miller’s stellar new collection of stories, a series of women who are struggling to figure out their lives must learn to cope with unsatisfying relationships and complicated friendships. All of the stories feature intimate, first-person narration from a woman who is in some form of trouble. In the title story, a college composition teacher has trouble maintaining her relationship with her boyfriend, mainly because they both drink heavily and he has a young son. In another story, “First Class,” a young woman tags along on expensive trips with her wealthy, bored friend even though neither of them especially want to be together. “Big Bad Love” concerns a narrator who works at a shelter for abused children. She cares about the neglected kids and dotes on one of them in particular, hoping the child will remember that someone loved her once. The women in these stories worry about their weight, how they look in bikinis, if they will ever have children, and whether they are living the life they should be. Miller’s collection feels so true because it never glosses over the desperate or unflattering portrayals of its narrators, but neither does it exploit their faults. These stories acutely explore boyfriends, exes, poor choices, and the sad fallout of so many doomed relationships. (Jan.)
"The stories in Mary Miller’s
Always Happy Hour are full of wit, bite, and the boundless intelligence of their author. This book is further evidence for what I felt after reading her brilliant debut novel, The Last Days of California, that Mary Miller is an astonishingly gifted writer. Her next one can’t come soon enough."
"In Miller’s new collection, a tipsy glow surrounds her Southern women as they trawl for cocktails, honk-tonk music, and men while nursing an inner ache they can’t booze away. In lucid, vivid prose, Miller renders them alive to lust and, however improbably, to love."
"Taken as a whole, this harrowing yet ultimately enjoyable collection is less about the conventions of storytelling—exposition, climax, denouement—and more of a meditation on the stories a person tells herself."
New York Times Book Review - Hilary Moss
"The stories have a Southern flavor that deliver on the publisher's promise of a book with savage Southern charm and hard-edged prose…The best literature illuminates the human condition and provokes contemplation. Miller puts readers inside the experiences of these women, has us stand in their socks, make their mistakes, and survive."
Dallas Morning News - Martha Sheridan
"In this stunning (and well-titled) collection of short fiction involving complicated, unprivileged women on the precipice of adulthood, Mississippi author Miller brilliantly explores lives that feel simultaneously destined and precarious."
The National Book Review - Elizabeth Taylor
"Somewhere between the old trope of the fallen woman and the unctuousness of the likable heroine, the young narrators of Miller’s searching stories inhabit the middle space known as reality. . . . Anyone who’s faltered on the way to success and contentment might find solace in the do-gooder in “Big Bad Love,” or the boozy, boyfriend-enabled composition teacher in the title story."
"I fell into this book like it was a night of drinking. I sipped, I laughed, I had some more, I got lonely, I danced a little, I downed the rest, I wanted to cry, I stayed up late closing it out and I’m a wreck and I regret nothing."
"Each of these stories has its own pulse. For anyone who’s ever looked for love in all the wrong places, this shoebox full of beating hearts is for you."
"Some of the women in this collection of short stories are spiraling; some are simply stuck. But they all have one thing in common: relationships in varying degrees of WTF? We can relate."
"Stories of self-defeat and loneliness, of bad decisions or maybe worse, the inability to make decisions. Stories of treading water—where you know you should move towards shore but instead you let yourself drift farther out.
Big World introduced us to the power of Mary Miller’s short stories, and Always Happy Hour solidifies her as a major voice in Southern Literature."
Always Happy Hour is like drinking an Old Fashioned. It’s strong with a sweet burn, and after each taste you immediately want more. Reminiscent of Pam Houston’s Cowboys Are My Weakness, Mary Miller writes well about sex, drugs and white bikinis."
Enduring dead-end jobs or relationships, living in trailer parks or rented houses, overdoing it on drugs, liquor, or bad sex, Miller's affectless heroines don't lead quality lives. It's hardly surprising when one of them says, "I try to be as unlikeable as possible." Well, yes, and their stories can make for depressing reading. But these portraits are also mesmerizing and exactly rendered, and Miller (The Last Days of California) tartly reminds us that for many people, life is defined by hardship, surprise, and just getting by. Says one thoughtful young narrator of the wealthy women who gingerly visit the children's home where she works, "It makes me want to steal their husbands so they can see how quickly life can rearrange itself into unfamiliar and unpleasant patterns." VERDICT Despite an occasional sense of sameness, excellent reading for fans of the genre. [See Prepub Alert, 7/11/16.]
A sense of detachment permeates the lives of the women in this short story collection, yet readers will find themselves riveted.They drink too much, keep company with the wrong men (or perhaps the men are right and they are wrong), and moon around their lives like bored teens with nothing to do but find trouble on a sultry summer day. Some have money, others are seriously strapped for cash. Most are educated, all are smarteven if they dont make smart choices. The women who slouch around the centers of Millers (The Last Days of California, 2014, etc.) short storiesdrinking dive-bar beer or mixed drinks made strong, ordering in pizza or getting fast food from the drive-thru lane, binge-watching TV, and looking for love in all the wrong placesare all about squandered potential, loneliness, and listlessness, distance where closeness should be and vice versa. They may be frustratingly disconnected, indifferent to the men who love them, attracted to those who maybe dont. Their relationships with boyfriends, husbands, and exes, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors are complicated, yet many seem stuck. What's holding them in place? Laziness? Fear? I guess my main problem with her is that she doesnt seem to be afraid of anything, the protagonist of one story, The House on Main Street, a divorced Southern grad student, says of her roommate, Melinda, a New Yorker who eats different foods (fresh meats she buys at the farmers market), writes different poetry (about apples and trees and never become more than apples and trees), and beds a different sort of man (Baptist and clean-cut and gets along well with everyone) than she. When Melinda is out, Millers protagonist sneaks into her bedroom to look at her stuff, marveling at how distinct the trappings of her roommate's life are from her own, never touching a thing. I just stand in her space feeling like an intruder, she says. The reader may respond the same way to the 16 stories in this collection, which feel both homey and exotic, limning lives at once familiar and distinctly their own. Like a two-for-one drink special or a boxful of beer, this bracingly strong collection may prove intoxicating.