What do I want from a short story? I like to discover a character who, even the brief space of the story, captures and holds my attention. Most of the eleven stories in Maile Meloy's Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It more than satisfy that requirement.
Her characters are flawed, conflicted, not always likable but utterly believable. Echoing the title, a character in “The Children”, trying to decide whether to leave his wife, says bluntly “What kind of fool wanted it only one way?”. And in “Travis, B.”, when a young ranch hand realizes he is out of his depth in pursuing a romance with a young lawyer, he muses that he “had wanted practice, with girls, and now he had gotten it, but he wished it had felt more like practice”.
Several stories have twists at the end, but they never feel gimmicky or manipulative. In nearly all of them a character is pulled in opposing directions, and each is resolved (or not resolved) in a fresh way. Meloy's style is crisp and understated, and in several stories she uses the stark and powerful landscape of Montana as a backdrop.
Sometimes I'm not ready to start reading a new novel, or maybe I want a quick break from the one I'm reading, and I'm looking for a satisfying short story that I can gulp down whole. For me, Meloy's stories rank near Alice Munro's for satisfying that thirst.