"Though it might seem strange to praise a writer for the things she doesn't do, what really sets Meloy apart is her restraint. She is impressively concise, disciplined in length and scope. And she's balanced in her approach to character, neither blinded by love for her creations, nor abusive toward them. . . . She's such a talented and unpredictable writer that I'm officially joining her fan club; whatever she writes next, I'll gladly read it."
-Curtis Sittenfeld, The New York Times Book Review
"After two well-received novels, Meloy returns to the short story, the form in which she made her notable debut and to which her lucid style is arrestingly well suited. Many of these stories are set in Meloy's native Montana, and all are about domestic distress-about love, mostly, and the trouble stirred up by its often inconvenient insistence. Several are poised in the limbo of adultery, in the time between act and confession. Always true to her wide-ranging though consistently introspective characters, Meloy convincingly depicts the inchoate emotion that drives people, while also distilling meaning from it."
"If life is all about choices, as the saying goes, then what happens when we simply can't make up our minds about what's most important? In her second volume of short stories, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It acclaimed; novelist Maile Meloy (Liars and Saints, A Family Daughter), who first stunned critics in 2002 with her debut story collection, Half in Love, cracks at our nagging desire to have it all (the answers, the romance, the payout, and, in one case, the late grandmother come back to life) in 11 tightly written, remarkably fluid narratives, most of which unfold in sleepy towns across Meloy's native Montana."
Almost all her characters are flawed…They are people who act irrationally, against their own best interestsby betraying those they care about, making embarrassing romantic overtures and knowingly setting in motion situations they'd rather avoidand Meloy's prose is so clear, calm and intelligent that their behavior becomes eminently understandable.
The New York Times
Meloy (Liars and Saints) hits some high notes in these stories of people juggling conflicting emotions with varying shades of success. In "The Children," a man's resolve to leave his wife for his now-grown children's former swimming instructor is unexpectedly "doomed to ambivalence and desire" when he's confronted by the comforting "habit of his marriage." Marital tensions are also at the heart of "O Tannenbaum," in which a couple, while hunting for a Christmas tree with their daughter, pick up a stranded couple whose bickering casts into relief the cracks in their own relationship. Other pieces focus on loneliness, as in the opening story about a young ranch hand's efforts to connect with a lawyer moonlighting as a night-school teacher, or as in "Agustín," where an elderly widower yearns for a lost, illicit lover. Meloy's characters frequently leave each other or let each other down, and it is precisely that-their vulnerabilities, failures and flaws-that make them so wonderful to follow as they vacillate between isolation and connection. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
These 11 stories are quick, powerful jabs, startling in their economy; you're propelled toward each ending, cetain she won't be able to wrap it up in one more page, and you're proved wrong every time
In the best short stories -- by Poe, Raymond Carver, Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor or Alice Munro -- there is always malaise, if not outright heartache, on the horizon. In less able hands this convention turns lugubrious and contrived. But Meloy's lean, targeted descriptions and her ultimately compassionate eye make this journey hurt so good.
Here, as in previous works like Half in Love, Meloy has a gift for portraying the tedium of waiting for things to happen in a place where they rarely do-and the shock that comes when something finally occurs. And if the mark of a good summer read is adultery and violence . . . well, it has that too.
Precise and restrained, Meloy's diagnoses of a very American malignancy have an authentic moral force. So does her merciful treatment of the characters in its grip and of the victims of its spread. Young as she is (she's 37), she has a scope and maturity that at their most rigorous attain the grandeur of prophecy. We need to listen to our Cassandras when they're as wise as Meloy is. Nonetheless, it must be said-and this is a shameful thing to admit-that people who want it both ways are more interesting than the wreckage they leave in their wake.
Readers drawn to the short story are sometimes disappointed upon reading a collection by a single author, even one they favor. The collection might seem padded, or the voice that struck us as original and engaging becomes boringly familiar halfway through. No such hazard awaits the readers of this new collection. The award-winning Meloy (Half in Love) continues to deliver stories that please and surprise as each narrative's small world unfolds. As one would expect from its cunning title, taken from a poem by A.R. Ammons, this collection features desire in its many, often contradictory elements, encounters that take a character by surprise but hardly make a ripple in anybody else's world. For example, the young Montana ranch hand in "Travis, B," finds himself smitten by the harried young teacher of an adult education class he happens upon just by following people into the classroom building. It's the act of entering the building that frees him, not the unlikely possibility of romance, and the reader comes to know him just as he begins to know himself. VERDICT Readers who have waited impatiently for Meloy's return to this genre, perhaps the one in which Meloy herself seems most at home, have a treat in store.Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Meloy (A Family Daughter, 2006, etc.) explores loneliness in 11 stories set mostly in her native Montana. "Travis, B." depicts a young cowboy, working away from his family and desperately lonely, attempting to woo an adult-ed teacher. His growth in self-awareness does not mitigate the heartbreak of his failure. "Lovely Rita" is another lost young adult; after her lover dies in a power-plant accident, she raffles herself off to raise money to find the father who abandoned her years before. While Travis and Rita are cut off from family, most of Meloy's characters are alone within their families. The adolescent protagonist of "Red from Green" loves her father but goes away to school; recognizing his inability to protect her, she chooses loneliness as a permanent state. In "Liliana," a Los Angeles man's supposedly dead grandmother shows up on his doorstep, alive and ready to reject him all over again. "Nine" is Valentina's age when her mother begins an affair with an Italian professor. It soon becomes clear that the affair is doomed, but Valentina mourns the loss of the man's ten-year-old son in her life. "Spy vs. Spy" shows a man and his brother dealing with long-simmering sibling rivalry. Despite their relative brevity, these are complex stories, often showing several characters being pulled in different directions. In what may be the volume's masterpiece, Leo meets with "The Girlfriend" of the man who raped and murdered Leo's daughter. In an anti-O'Henry twist, the loving father unearths a truth better left buried: that his own protectiveness may have caused his daughter's death. The author seldom allows a trickle of hope to lighten her characters' anguish, but she gives them aconsciousness and dignity that make their experiences deeply moving.