R.L. Maizes tells stories of discovery, haunting, and the everyday rhythms of life. Her writing is by turns eloquent, poignant, and groaningly funny. And her characters are as unique as you’ll find in contemporary short stories.
Maizes’ tales feature teenagers, grown men and women, and more than a few beloved pets. Each character voice is clear as a bell, with conundrums to solve and hurdles to jump. Well, in fact, sometimes the hurdle trips them up.
But the stories are believable constructs with some slightly out-of-the-ordinary details. For example, the man who discovers his tattoo artistry helps him change lives. Or the therapist whose couch might be the literal reason for her practice’s success.
In a few stories, teenagers face difficult life decisions. One is working through her father’s untimely death. Another is deciding if he can recite part of the Torah he doesn’t believe at his bar mitzvah. A third struggles to feel like a part of her family.
Pets do feature strongly in Maizes’ stories, including the Jewish actuary whose non-Jewish girlfriend steals his cat’s love. And the woman mourning her dogs’ death.
The breadth of this collection is matched only by the intensity of its small and meaningful details. There should be a picture of this book next to the expression “all the feels” in the bibliophile dictionary.
I took this story on a vacation, and it was the perfect choice for a busy trip. In the spare moments on trains and planes, I was excited to see who Maizes would introduce to me next. Even amongst some fairly tragic story lines, she almost always slides a laugh in sideways.
I can’t even begin to pick a favorite, since I liked so many of them. And as much as I typically give books away after I read them, I may need to keep this and revisit the characters. The only thing that’d make it better would be if Maizes would expand some stories to a full-length book.
This would be a great summertime read for a book club. It’s meaty enough to discuss, but easy to slide in a carry on or poolside tote. Definitely a winner in my book!
Many thanks to the author and Celadon Books for an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Publication date is July 23, 2019.