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Half as Happy: stories by Gregory Spatz

Half as Happy: stories

by Gregory Spatz

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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. 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

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

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
See more reviews at The Best Books Ever!

Author Gregory Spatz has assembled a collection of dense, intricate short stories in Half as Happy. While your average short story just gives you a sketch of who the characters are, or maybe feels like it could be part of a large work, Spatz's stories feel fully realized. His writing style is rich with detail and flows in an almost stream-of-consciousness sort of way, which can get a bit overwhelming at times, but which serves the narrative voice of the story very welll.

While some of the characters aren't even given names, you still feel like you wind up knowing them, warts and all. Even when you get little backstory on the characters, you feel like you know what makes them tick -- at least, as well as the characters themselves know, which oftentimes isn't that well. The characters are not often ones who have a great deal of self awareness, and if they do, that doesn't mean they understand the other people in their lives any better.

The people Spatz writes about are not exactly people in peak condition. They are dysfunctional, desperate, delusional. They are cheaters and liars, they are seeing their relationships crumble before their eyes. They are grief-stricken or ill or on the cusp of divorcing. Not one story focuses on people who really have their act together. A number of the stories felt far too close to home for me sometimes: the lonely soon-to-be ex-spouses, each looking on at the other post-break-up with a degree of desire for the life the other now has; the young couple moving into a new home to try to recapture a connection that they've lost. The characters may be lost and dysfunctional, but they are very, deeply human.

All of the stories save one ("The Bowmaker's Cats") are set in a realistic, fairly straight-forward contemporary world. "The Bowmaker's Cats" has a touch of magical realism about it as you find yourself wonder what, exactly, happened, what does it all mean, when you get to the end. The rest of the stories show you snippets of lives, relationships gone wrong, things taken too far. It's a fascinating look at less-than-perfect people, many of whom you still find yourself rooting for anyway.

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win Half as Happy to experience Spatz's detailed, sometimes disorienting, worlds for yourself. Open to anyone who can receive mail at an address in the US. Due to some sexual situations in the book, please enter only if you are 17 or older. ( )
  goorgoahead | Dec 4, 2013 |
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