Thursday, June 25, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: "The Good Life"

The Good Life
By Erin McGraw
Copyright 2004
Houghton Mifflin Co
Short Story Collection

Hmmm…I’m really not even sure what to say about this book. Normally, I really like short stories. They are usually detailed, and yet pithy, and then have a dramatic surprise at the end. This collection of short stories fell short of my expectations by quite a bit.

As the title of the book indicates, these stories are about “life”. However, I really felt like instead of the “good” life, the stories were more about people who are trapped in a life they don’t really want.

I think that my favorite was a story called “A Whole New Man”, about a man named Frederick who is somehow talked into going on a makeover show with his wife. The author describes Frederick’s lack of opinion on the issue in such an amusing way. And then when Frederick actually gets his makeover and he must deal with the feelings he experiences as a result, I did feel quite a bit of empathy for him (me who HATES to get my hair cut and feels a sense of loss for days and days whenever I can no longer avoid it).

In reading other stories, I think I just totally missed the point. I would get to the end of a story (which usually wasn’t an “end” at all), and wonder exactly why the author had written it in the first place. Some of the characters were oddly….well, odd. Like the woman who falls in love with her priest. Or the young girl who is sent to live with a woman her mother admires but whom she’s never met. Or the recovering addict who finds peace from her mother by attending early morning mass. Some of the concepts to the stories were interesting, but they really fizzled in the end.

There were a few good moments in the book, but not enough to justify the time I spent reading it.

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