HALF IN LOVE
Maile Meloy, Author . Scribner $23 (176p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1647
The 14 stories in Meloy's confident, polished debut tell the tales of many different people—lawyers, ranchers, ex-pats and school girls—often as, in moments of clarity, their understanding of their place in the world poignantly shifts. In the spare, haunting "Four Lean Hounds, ca. 1976," a young man mourns the drowning of his best friend and his wife's infidelity, even as he realizes that "all he could hate his friend for was that [he] had been loved." In "Thirteen and a Half," a homely girl briefly singled out by an unfamiliar and dangerous boy at a school dance registers his choice as something akin to a life-altering serendipity, as she watches him vanish "among the boys who were just boys, who meant nothing to her, boys she saw every day of her life." Death—both animal and human, either experienced or imminent—plays a part in many of Meloy's stories. A champion colt's terrible frostbite complicates an already knotty marriage in the heartbreaking "Kite Whistler Aquamarine," while a father's terminal cancer gives his daughter a different understanding of what's fair and what should be risked in "A Stakes Horse." "Ranch Girl," one of the 10 stories Meloy sets in her native West, is one of her strongest and sharpest: "If you're white, and you're not rich or poor but somewhere in the middle, it's hard to have worse luck than to be born a girl on a ranch," the narrator says, even as she refuses to leave. Though Meloy leans toward minimalism—and a few of the stories seem pinched as a result—she is a fluid, confident and talented writer capable of moments of true grace.
Reviewed on: 06/10/2002