Book Review: Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward

Sorry for the gap in posts! Been sick and traveling, but I'm catching up now, I promise. The one perk of being home for a week was that I caught up on some reading; sadly, the loopy meds meant I only got through one book. But it was a good one, and worth it.

Love Stories in This Town (with a great title, and a great cover) is a collection of short stories, new from Amanda Eyre Ward. Ward's stories all focus on love, but not in the way you might expect: she takes her readers on a tour of heartbreak and loneliness, offering a surprisingly insightful - though depressing - take on love, life, and happiness. From the widow of a Sept 11th victim to a pregnant ballerina, a young librarian in the Midwest to the crazed housewife living in Saudi Arabia, Ward's stories draw on small, seemingly insignificant details of life to present the emotions behind every decision we make and relationship upon which we embark.

The first half of the book is a collection of unrelated short stories, while Part II turns to Lola, a heartbroken college student attending her ex-boyfriend's wedding to Miss Montana. Each subsequent story provides a snapshot of another moment in Lola's life, from her stint in Saudi Arabia with her husband on a compound to the visit of her mother-in-law and her first grandchild. The balance between the two halves is superb, and the skill with which Ward weaves the themes of the first half of the book into the Lola stories impressive.

Ward's writing is crisp, clear, and perfectly adapted in each story to the moment and character being portrayed. She alternates between the short choppy voice of a struggling widow, the youthful voice of a young librarian and the long poetic sentences of a ballerina without missing a beat, and manages to maintain her own voice and strong writing style throughout.

Bottom line: The blurb on the front of the book claims that Love Stories in This Town is impossible to put down, but I couldn't disagree more. No, this is a book to be digested in small bits, one story at a time. To rush through it would be to sacrifice the raw emotion in each page, carefully contained by the first and last pages of each story, like bookends precariously balanced on either end of wobbling tomes. Ward's collection is sharp, insightful, witty, but most of all poignant, resulting in a book that leaves the reader wanting more while simultaneously knowing that that is all there is. Bring your tissues and schedule lots of reading breaks, and you're sure to enjoy it.

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