Thursday, May 2, 2013

Half as Happy

Half as Happy by Gregory Spatz
Engine Books, 4/16/2013
Trade Paperback, 188 pages
ISBN-13: 9781938126093
A grieving couple rents a desperate landlord's house in an effort to recover lost intimacy. Twins are irrevocably separated by events both beyond and within their control. A nighttime prank and its gruesome aftermath forge human connections no one could have anticipated.

The eight stories in Half as Happy reveal with startling clarity their characters' secrets, losses, and desires. Each with the depth of a novel,
these insightful portraits of the darkness and light within us reverberate long after they've ended, like beautiful and disturbing dreams.

My Thoughts:
 
My one regret while reading Half as Happy by Gregory Spatz is that I didn't have the time to savor the stories and the writing quite as much as it deserves to be appreciated. My only excuse is that I moved several weeks ago and am still trying to unpack after work. This collection of eight short stories is expertly wrought with a great attention to details and descriptions. It's the kind of collection that could turn anyone into a fan of the art of the short story.
 
The collection includes:
"Any Landlord's Dream" concerns a couple who rent a house in the attempt to help them recover from a great loss.
In "Happy For You," an older woman contemplates her life during a very early morning call from a son 
"No Kind of Music" concerns a failed relationship
"Luck" is about a couple on an Alaskan cruise.
"The Bowmaker's Cats" is about a bow maker and disappearance.
"A Bear For Trying" is about twins and their connection to each other.
"Half as Happy" is about a wife who is losing too much weight.
"String" is about a group of good kids who did something wrong.
 
Of course, none of these descriptions come close to capturing the magic in these melancholy, complex stories. Their beauty lies in the completeness of the characters. They are fully realized, even in these short stories. The detailed descriptions add to the intricate stories. Don't expect cheerful outcomes where everything turns out for the best in the end. Even when the outcome seems good, or at least acceptable, there are still compromises that are made and burdens that must be born. The characters may not even be aware of their flaws and foibles. They are, all of them, dysfunctional and emotionally stunted, but very human and hurting.
 
Very Highly Recommended
 
 
Gregory Spatz is the author of Inukshuk (Bellevue Literary Press), Fiddler's Dream, No One But Us, and Wonderful Tricks. His short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines, and he has published numerous book and music reviews in The Oxford American. He is the winner of a 2012 NEA Literature Fellowship.


 
 
 
 
 
 Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes. 

 
 
 
 

2 comments:

GSpatz said...

Thanks Lori! Much appreciated, glad you liked the book! And good luck with the rest of your move.

Best,
Gregory Spatz

heathertlc said...

I always forget how good short stories can be until a collection like this one comes along. It sounds like a must-read for me!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.