Friday, July 10, 2009

The Simplest of Acts And Other Stories by Melanie Haney

The Simplest of Acts And Other Stories by Melanie Haney
(Short Stories)

Not generally a lover of short stories, I wasn't expecting to be overly wowed by this collection. As I've been known to say on more than one occassion, short stories to me are usually too hurried and lack the backbone I feel is important in making a story flow and feel completely rounded. In this instance, it wasn't that I doubted the author's ability or even that I expected not to be entertained; more so I just didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as other "more complete" books. More complete, to me, means a book with one main plotline that is followed up with individual storylines that come together to form one whole story. (Think a novel.) However, when it came down to it, I was bowled over and totally drawn in by the complex nature of each individual story told in Haney's compilation.

Every story told a tale of relative simplicity but the manner in which each was told opened the depths to allow the reader a uniquely personal insight to the characters and their plight. I say "plight" because while each of the stories is told from a different perspective, all of them seem to have one common thread tying them together- a loss and/or deep and pervasive sadness. From the very start, in "An Ordinary Evening", we see a mother coping with the pending loss of her comatose daughter. You, the reader, experience the pain alongside the mother. You recognize her grief, and yet you can sense her hope that perhaps some good can still come when all is said and done. Or in "Sweltering", which was probably my absolute favorite of all the collection, we meet a couple who have more than just the intense Summer heat driving them apart. The cause of the couple's withdraw from one another is not immediately evident. However, as the story progresses, with the introduction of a stray cat, you begin to understand where the couple has come from and what driving force has unfurled the thickening distance between them. It's a story so moving, so stirring. So much, infact, that the act of reading it seems almost too personal, as if the couple really does exist and by reading their story you are not just observing but actively taking part in their emotional upheaval. This, truth be told, was the case with each of the eleven stories included in The Simplest of Acts. While all unique, each contains a richness that can only be fully appreciated when shared in its own intimate setting.

Unlike some other short stories I've had the displeasure of spending my time reading, each of these pieces seemed effortless to read. Every narative was complete and showed a distinctive beginning, middle, and end without coming across as overworked or rushed. Despite their brevity, each story was polished and exuded the author's true talent for storytelling. My hats off to her; for within these mere 101 pages, my mind has been changed once and for all wherein short stories are concerned. I'd be lying if I didn't say that as of here and now my eyes have been opened to a new and improved form of short story. I might not go out of my way to pick up just any old short story collection, but I fully intend to not give them quite the brush off I've been known to give in the past. Especially if and/or when Melanie releases a new collection, you can sign me up to receive a hot off the presses copy!

It was a tremendous pleasure to read and review this book. I'm disheartened to think that I might have missed it all together were it not for this blog, Bookish Mom Reviews. Without it I would have never received the review request from Ms Haney; and, therefore, I would have probably never stumbled on to the book by myself. And even if I did, let's be real, I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance, if not for the pure and simple fact that, again, it's a short story collection. So, yes, my utmost thanks goes to the author for this great opportunity. Thank you, Melanie!!!

~Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC

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