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One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2009-- now adapted into the feature film Certain Women, starring Kristen Stewart-- award-winning writer Maile Meloy's short stories explore complex lives in an austere landscape with the clear-sightedness that first endeared her to readers. Don't miss her new novel, Do Not Become Alarmed.
Meloy's first return to short stories since her critically acclaimed debut, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It is an extraordinary new work from one of the most promising writers of the last decade.
Eleven unforgettable new stories demonstrate the emotional power and the clean, assured style that have earned Meloy praise from critics and devotion from readers. Propelled by a terrific instinct for storytelling, and concerned with the convolutions of modern love and the importance of place, this collection is about the battlefields-and fields of victory-that exist in seemingly harmless spaces, in kitchens and living rooms and cars. Set mostly in the American West, the stories feature small-town lawyers, ranchers, doctors, parents, and children, and explore the moral quandaries of love, family, and friendship. A ranch hand falls for a recent law school graduate who appears unexpectedly- and reluctantly-in his remote Montana town. A young father opens his door to find his dead grandmother standing on the front step. Two women weigh love and betrayal during an early snow. Throughout the book, Meloy examines the tensions between having and wanting, as her characters try to keep hold of opposing forces in their lives: innocence and experience, risk and stability, fidelity and desire.
Knowing, sly, and bittersweet, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It confirms Maile Meloy's singular literary talent. Her lean, controlled prose, full of insight and unexpected poignancy, is the perfect complement to her powerfully moving storytelling.
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 "Agust n," 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.