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August 17, 2010


Posted by Dana

In today's post, regular contributor Heather Johnson discusses the option of short story collections for book club and talks about how even a title can spark some good discussion.  

Both-Ways-Is-the-Only-Way-I-Want-It-Meloy-Maile-9781594484650.jpgIn July my book club held our annual pool party meeting.  This meeting always draws the most members (other than our Christmas party) and I understand why.  After all, what could be better than eating good food in a gorgeous, shady backyard and floating in a pool on a hot summer day with good friends and great discussion too?! 

Our book was a short story collection by Maile Meloy called BOTH WAYS IS THE ONLY WAY I WANT IT.  The stories are set in Midwestern America in the present day and each story provides a “slice-of-life” look at a particular character.  The stories are not connected other than by the setting and (possibly) the theme of wanting what you can’t or shouldn’t have. 

This book caused mixed reactions in our club members.  The only other short story collection we’ve read is INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by Jhumpa Lahiri.  That book was phenomenal, and some of our members were disappointed that Meloy’s book didn’t impact them in the same way.  Others (including myself) reacted negatively to several stories because we disliked the characters or their motivations so intensely. But then there were the great stories, ones that will stick with us forever.   In my mind, those stories made the entire book worth reading.

In addition to discussing individual stories we also tried to determine how the title of the book related to each story and to the collection as a whole.  That was my favorite part of the discussion – we had a lot of fun discussing just how each character wanted things “both ways” …

As a side note, almost all the members of the club had a hard time finding a copy of this book.  What we later realized is that the paperback version was due out just before our meeting.  The library had only one copy and most stores had sold their copies of the hardback and were taking pre-orders for the paperback.  Several of us ended up purchasing eBook editions to read (I read mine on my Droid phone – it worked surprisingly well) after exhausting all other options.  You can bet that we’ll be more careful when choosing books in the future – no more hard-to-find titles or ones that are just coming out in paperback!

A good collection of short stories can give a club a wide variety of topics to discuss and lead to some great conversation.  This is only the second time our club has read short stories but I’m sure we’ll do it again.  Has your club read any short stories?  In what way did it make your meeting different?  Are there any short story collections that you’d highly recommend?

--Heather Johnson, Storie Delle Sorelle Book Club