Saturday, January 10, 2015

Review: Bad Choices, Good Prose, and Relatable Women (Despite Some Un-Relatable Choices) -- Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories by Katherine Heiny

A quick book review....

I'll start with the admission that this review is based on having read about 3/4 of the stories in the collection.  I misplaced this book while visiting family and it will be a while before I can finish, if at all.  Since it was kindly provided by the publisher for my honest review, I felt I should go ahead and review it at this juncture anyway, a decision made easier by the fact that it is a collection of stories so it isn't like a novel where the ending can color the whole experience.

Heiny's collection focuses on women and their romantic entanglements.  Most of the stories standalone, although one character's "relationship life" is revisited at several points in her life's journey.  It is important to note that few of the stories involve a simple/traditional relationship.  We see women cheating on their partners and women who know they are seeing a man who has a wife or significant other.  If that's going to be a roadblock, steer clear.

That said, I enjoyed these stories.  I rarely agreed with the choices made by the protagonists and I often found their relationship decisions fairly despicable.  Willingness to cheat is a pretty major character flaw in my book.  Yet, while I'm not sure I ever fully liked the protagonists, and while I can't imagine cheating myself, I found myself understanding many of them, even relating to parts of their stories.  The women's willingness to cheat could have been a roadblock, but Heiny manages to draw such real women that it wasn't the sole character trait we see.  That isn't to say the women come away having learned a lesson or that the stories look at the consequences of their choices.  Most of the stories are a momentary visit with women in love or women in lust (or at least "in like").  There's more humor than consequence.

Heiny's writing saves what could be an infuriating collection of moments in some other author's hands.  I enjoyed the stories, even if I didn't "like" the women in them all the time.  I felt ties to my own self, even if I can't imagine making the choices the women make.  The stories read quickly and easily and I think it is an easy collection to breeze through in a few days or to pick up between more serious fare for a quick palette-cleanse.  Not for everyone, but I'll give it a solid 4 of 5 stars.

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