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This is a lovely collection of stories about a variety of ordinary and fascinating women. Ward is not attempting to reinvent the short story genre, as the tales tend to have pretty straightforward structures, but she does a phenomenal job crafting authentic and witty dialogue to flesh out her complex but approachable characters. I have read Ward's three novels, and while I loved How To Be Lost, I was less impressed with Sleep Toward Heaven, and I really disliked Forgive Me, so I felt like I was gambling a little when I bought this collection. It paid off - the quality here is much more in line with her best novel than any of her other work.
I recommend this mostly for women - most of the stories have some reference to pregnancy or motherhood or menstruation or other concerns that generally don't interest men as much - but (from my own experience) I can say that a guy who wouldn't otherwise be drawn to the subject matter will still love the stories because of the power of the author.
And on a note that will probably not concern anyone else, Ward writes a story about the absurdity of The Woodlands (my hometown), and she nails it perfectly, even using actual street names and restaurants. For me, that story alone was worth the price of the whole book.
I had high hopes for this book. It was a major let-down. The stories left you with too many unanswered questions. There was no organization in the stories. The author jumped all over the place, going off subject, and I found myself turning back pages, wondering what the original story line was. The book was not edited very well. Names of characters suddenly changed, places changed, sentences weren't constructed correctly, etc. Each story felt exactly the same too. They were all about a woman from a small town who is dating/married/in love with a scientist. BORING. It was a mess and frustrating to read.
This book grew on me like an old, dear friend. I am sorry to finish it. I enjoyed the first half, even though I haven't been a big "short story" person, generally. The second half was so, so intriguing. I want to see more Lola. I want to know more about her. What about her father? I'm thinking maybe Lola and I are long, lost half sisters with a father like that! ;) I also really enjoy when this author takes us to foreign countries. I enjoyed her description of Saudi as much as I enjoyed her description of Africa in her novel, Forgive Me. She has a gift for saying so much with a minimum of words. Like Raymond Carver, she can create a mood in a matter of a few syllables. I highly recommend this book...
I love Amanda Eyre Ward's books and have read them all. I was a little disappointed by this one. I knew it was going to be short stories which is not my favorite thing, but none of the stories really held my interest the way her other books have. That said, it's not awful or anything - just not her best effort.
I have read Amanda Ward's other books and REALLY liked them, in fact, she is one of my favorite authors, but not this one. I finished it but felt like it was such a waste of my time. I did not understand the stories, the endings, what she was trying to get across. Then I went BACK to re-read other reviews and I am definitely in the minority with this one. No, would NOT recommend.
Sadly, I have just finished the last story and have a desire for a second helping fast. The collection is divided into two parts with the last stories centered around Lola, a character the reader will hold as a friend. At least this reader will. The prose is spartan. So precise. And the characters are so cleverly etched. I teach writing at a local college. My students read short stories I select for them and then write a short story of their own. I am going to use one of the Lola stories from now on, probably the Miss Montana one. I doubt any amazon.com reader will give this less than the five stars it deserves.
Do you detect a pattern here? Rave five-star reviews of "Love Stories in this Town" by Amanda Eyer Ward - many which state that they rarely, if ever, love every single short story in a collection. I echo those reviews. Every single story in the collection is fabulous. Ward's humor is right up my alley, and her characters are fascinating and easy to relate to. She is a gifted short story writer, and although I'm thrilled to hear she has a new novel in the works...I also hope she never quits the short story form at which she so clearly excels.
I selected this book for our book club and what a joy it was to read. All of my readers did not concur, but I thought the stories were wonderful. I loved the author's sense of humor and even the saddest stories were contained some irony. Well worth the read. You won't be sorry you picked this book.