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54 Reviews
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88 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully Eloquent Collection From a Gifted Observer of Human Frailty
This is my first exposure to the work of Maile Meloy, but if my enjoyment of this collection of short stories is any indication, I think I have just found a new favorite author! Speaking literarily, Meloy must be a Hydra or something. How else to explain 11 stories of acutely observed characters, graceful prose and achingly naked insights, each distinctly different in...
Published on July 17, 2009 by K. Anderson

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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desire
There are eleven finely written short stories in Maile Meloy's new collection titled, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. One theme through these stories is the desire of an individual for more than he or she seems to have now or is experiencing. Sometimes those desires are realized, often they are not. Meloy presents real people in relationships that most readers will...
Published on September 21, 2009 by Stephen T. Hopkins


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88 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterfully Eloquent Collection From a Gifted Observer of Human Frailty, July 17, 2009
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K. Anderson "Xanadude" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This is my first exposure to the work of Maile Meloy, but if my enjoyment of this collection of short stories is any indication, I think I have just found a new favorite author! Speaking literarily, Meloy must be a Hydra or something. How else to explain 11 stories of acutely observed characters, graceful prose and achingly naked insights, each distinctly different in tone and approach?
Each story is a complete reality explored in the most poetic, economic language I've encountered since Truman Capote, plus she possesses a way with regional detail that rivals Carson McCullers. Some stories, like "Spy vs. Spy" will make you laugh out loud, while others, like "Travis B." will blindside you and won't be aware of your eyes tearing up until the words have become too blurry to read. The chilling "The Girlfriend" is like Stephen King if Stephen King could write.
I can't remember when I've enjoyed a book more or been as unhappy to come to the end.
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49 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put Down Everything Else You're Reading And Read This, July 13, 2009
This one's as solidly stunning as her first collection, Half in Love. Few flashy plot points, zero flashy sentences, but a confidence in the telling so acute that the characters' lives stay with you for a long time. Meloy GETS people, and she gets the West the way few writers do--the comfort and anxiety of slow open spaces, the barreling toward progress and development and peopled places not inconsistent with the ache for untouched land. This is by far the best collection of shorts this year.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd like more of the Meloy way please, July 29, 2009
These stories will make you think as well as tug at your heartstrings. There is something in all of them that goes far beneath the surface of universal human truths. It's funny because the ages of the people range from just out of their teens to their 50's or so, though most are 30 or 40 something's, all of them are relatable however. You can feel for the 20 something farm hand falling for a slightly older woman just as much as you do for the middle aged couple contemplating the state of their marriage and where to go with it. I can't help comparing Meloy's story collection to Elizabeth Strout's short stories "Olive Kittridge". (Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer for fiction). Strout's characters are many different ages but mostly the perspective is looking back through Olive's eyes from somewhere in her 60's. Meloy's folks are looking ahead to what might be, possibilities, Strout's look back and try and make sense of how their past is shaping their present and how it's impacted their current array of choices. Both Meloy and Strout have immense insights and lovely moments of interaction that comes after tension, as if the sun broke through clouds and suddenly there's a realization that life doesn't have to be so complicated. Both authors write beautifully and with few words they create an evocative atmosphere that is their's alone. Last week I finished Meloy's debut story collection `Half in Love' and even in 2003 Meloy had a distinct voice and lots to say. Her work has a sweetness whereas Strout can cast a slightly menacing milieu that makes you dread a little to keep reading. They both have a delicious sense of humor as well though, even through the sadness, Meloy's is a lighter touch.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Desire, September 21, 2009
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There are eleven finely written short stories in Maile Meloy's new collection titled, Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. One theme through these stories is the desire of an individual for more than he or she seems to have now or is experiencing. Sometimes those desires are realized, often they are not. Meloy presents real people in relationships that most readers will recognize. Her writing presents just the right amount of conflict among her characters to allow her to use the short story form effectively and not waste a single word.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fully satisfying, yet left me wanting more., December 21, 2009
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Almost all her characters are maladjusted, but in no way nefarious: lawyers, Montana residents, adulterous spouses, affluent and idiosyncratic older women, women in their youth who are close to their fathers in nice as opposed to creepy ways, and various mixtures thereof. They are people who act illogically, against their own best interests by taking advantage of those that care about them the most, later they submit themselves in a blind pursuit for those they desire. Exaggerated overtures of romance and knowingly setting in motion situations they'd rather avoid. Meloy's prose is so clear, calm and intelligent that the characters behavior becomes strikingly easy relatable.

I admire the author's cautious reigning in of the plot because it manifests itself surprisingly not in the way she plots stories, which is boldly, but in how she chooses to reveal her plots, delivering shocking twists in as low-key manner as possible. I found myself delightfully saddened at each of the stories endings. So much unfinished business, but I did not find myself resentful due to the absence of a neatly packaged ending,. I instead found myself admiring her bravery for allowing her stories to mirror the quotidian of unfinished business experienced by all those who suffer through the basics of human interaction and including the most intimate relationships. I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in deep character analysis without the distraction of a superfluous plot.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A short story collection truly worth savoring..., February 27, 2010
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There once was a time when I didn't read short stories, much less short story collections, because I didn't want to get invested in characters only to have to give them up fairly quickly when the story ended. Boy, I'm glad I shook myself free of that quirk, otherwise I wouldn't have read a fantastic book like Maile Meloy's Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. This collection is on both the New York Times' list of the year's notable books as well as Amazon's 100 best list, and as I discovered last year, I can rarely go wrong with their recommendations.

This collection is about relationships of all kinds and the emotions that these relationships uncover and foster. From the opening story, "Travis, B.," which tells of a young ranch hand's desire to open up to a lawyer working as a night school teacher in rural Montana, to the closing story "O Tannenbaum," which highlights marital discord and temptation during the holiday season, Meloy's writing is at times humorous, at times heartbreaking, always memorable and always terrific. All 11 stories hit slightly different notes and provoked different reactions in me, but I also found myself struck by her fantastic use of language.

If you're a short story fan, add this to your reading list, stat. If you're not, I'd recommend you pick this up anyway. You won't be disappointed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meloy is a true master..., July 31, 2009
A wonderful collection of short stories by a writer at the peak of her form. The writing is spare, all the characters are brilliantly observed, and there is hilarious dialogue, too. Each story is odd and startling in its own way. You'll want to whip through this book, but don't. It's best read slowly so you can savor the language and nuance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Existential Stories, December 13, 2009
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So much for that fine old institution called marriage! Not that most of us weren't quite aware of just how failed the institution is. But should we need reminding, well, there is no better place to do it than opening up Maile Meloy's stories in this hard-to-put-down new work.

The cast in this collection reflects, in my opinion, so much of what we have become in this country: people disillusioned, floundering in our existential dilemmas. Love quite simply is an illusion. Take, for example, the last story, a tale that begins with the promise of a traditional Christmas story. But, oh, no, wouldn't the they-seem-so-happy couple meet up with another married couple. Bonnie and Clyde! But by the time one reaches this story, the reader is well aware that nothing is as it seems to be.

One of my favorites that I plan to use in my college writing class is "Lovely Rita." Yes, from a Beatles song. Set in 1975 at a site where a band of men are constructing a nuclear power plant, we see the corruption from both management and unions. It takes three union men to do one job while the other two sleep. But that's just the backdrop for the story of pathetic Rita and the men who want to "do it" with her. I won't give away what she comes up with. But believe me it is unique. And quite possibly one way for a few people to pick up a little cash during the Great Recession!

This is a must-read collection of stories.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of the short story format (3.5 stars), August 8, 2009
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This book includes 11 stories and covers a lot of ground: with characters being young, old, American, foreign - - and involved in a number of situations - father/daughter relationships, sibling rivalry, of love and unrequited love, infidelity and of loneliness.

The characters are all flawed in one way or another - they succumb to temptation - knowing full well the impact of the consequences. This excerpt supports the vein of the plot lines for most of the stories - with a middle aged man in a good marriage being attracted to another woman:

"'Both ways is the only way I want it.' The force with which he wanted it both ways made him grit his teeth. What kind of fool wanted it one way?...He held his wife and felt himself anchored to everything that was safe and sure, and kept for himself the knowledge of how quickly he could let go and drift free."

While the story lines can be described as being dark, the author successfully paints the characters as human so you identify with the flaws and the situations they are in. (Good people doing bad things.) It reminded me of a watching a car crash unfold in slow motion - and you can't take your eyes off it.

The stories are smartly written - clear, crisp and concise. The author manages to intelligently "pull-up" without revealing too much which keeps you wondering about the outcome and what you would have done in a similar situation. That being said, while I found these stories engaging, I was left yearning for more and a deeper understanding of the characters and the outcomes - which left me somewhat unsatisfied after concluding the book.

I read 2 other exceptional short story books prior to this work - "Do Not Deny Me" by Jean Thompson and "Olive Kitteridge" (2009 Pullitzer Prize Winner) by Elizabeth Strout. I highly recommend both books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book "All Ways", November 9, 2010
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An incredibly good set of short stories; some unpredictable and others that make you stop and say "wow!" In my opinion the best story is the first one called Travis B. which talks about a young woman who works during the day as a lawyer and then drives abou 10 hours in each direction at night into Montana to teach a class. Talk about extreme commuting! But she has a set of bills to pay and she is worried that if she gives up this job, she may be forced to take other extreme measures. I imagine that there are a large number of people today in America who are experiencing something close to what Beth is experiencing in this book. Other stories will shock you including the one where a father does something unthinkable to his daghter. A good set of stories to keep you busy on a cold winter day.
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Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy (Paperback - July 6, 2010)
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