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Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,066 Ratings  ·  612 Reviews
Set mostly in the American West, these stories explore the moral quandaries of love, family, and friendship and examine the tensions between having and wanting, as small-town lawyers, ranchers, doctors, parents, and children try to keep hold of opposing forces in their lives: innocence and experience, risk and stability, fidelity and desire.
Paperback, 219 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Canongate (first published 2009)
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May 15, 2013 ·Karen· rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, usa
This wonderful title is a quote from a poem by A.R.Ammons, and is an apt description of the quandary encapsulated in each of these stories. Often enough the wanting it both ways is the classic case of the husband hoping to keep both wife and lover, or hoping for the chance to juggle the two - funny how it's rarely a woman trying to keep all the plates spinning. But this is not the only kind of wishful thinking, there is also the child who regrets the departure of her mother's glamorous lover and ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: short review
Meloy’s stories are flawless: the writing is clear and economic, the settings and ‘plot’ and characters conjured with minimum fuss. Altogether perfect pieces largely about adultery, and breaking marriages (or maybe not), but also about childhood incidents looming later, murder, rape, stalking and industrial accidents. The collection is aptly titled – the stories usually take the reader into a situation where a decision is about to be made, and often leave them with the outcome still in the balan ...more
A friend of mine asked me to read this book as it had received good reviews but she wasn't impressed with it. She wondered what I would think. So here it is:
From the title, "Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It" I made the assumption that it was a book about relationships, a non-fiction book. And even though my usual reaction to pop psychology self-help books is a gag reflex, it probably would have been better than what this book turned out to be.
It is a book of fictional short stories about the
Jan 08, 2016 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
A lovely collection. Mostly about different versions of desire, often adulterous desire, but also about growing up, about children's perceptions of adult desire, and their own first experiences of it. Many of these perfectly bittersweet stories of love, loss, and lust are set in a slightly sepia toned Montana, whose atmosphere suits Meloy's tone perfectly. In fact, her most exotically located story, Augustin, set in South America, is maybe her weakest.

I'm not sure that this is a huge book, and
Apr 10, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the title of this book, and it fits each and every story. (Though, I wish, perversely perhaps, the phrase hadn't been used in one of the later stories ("The Children") -- it was better, I think, to have the poem it's from used just as the epigraph.)

In each story, there is the surface story, and then there is at least one other layer that causes you to reflect after you've finished the story, causing you to wonder what might have been, if only this one thing had not happened or happened d
alana Semuels
Sep 29, 2011 alana Semuels rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually don't go for collections of short stories -- usually the themes are so similar (immigrants have it hard, people cheat on their spouses, music is cool, that after the first few stories, I'm bored. Also, there's no plot egging you along, making it easy to put the book down. But I couldn't put this book down. The prose is gorgeous, the stories are simple and memorable. I read it in a day. If you're going to read one book of short stories, make it this one. Or Olive Kittredge. But this one ...more
Melinda Worfolk
I enjoyed this entire collection of short stories! There was not a single dud in the bunch, as far as I was concerned, and I honestly can't remember the last time I thought that about a book of short stories...maybe when I was reading Alice Munro? High praise, I know, but genuine. I'm having a hard time articulating what I liked about them, but they feel so self assured and effortless. So many short stories seem the opposite--trying too hard, just so...effortful. These seem like they somehow spr ...more
Nov 08, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meloy captivated me immediately with her skill and finesse. She has certainly succeeded well in the art of the short story. Each tale captures the essence of her characters with mirth, sympathy or suspense.
I appreciate the recommendation by my good friends in Goodreads and anticipate reading more by this author.
Well crafted and self assured, wonderful stories. Reminds me of Alice Munro because her stories are of ordinary people and their ordinary lives, but she sees them with an extraordinary clarity.
Feb 06, 2010 Barry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

What a find! Maile Meloy, I suppose, is not newly found. It seems the heavyweights of the industry have heaped honours on her since her debut collection of stories in 2002. But she’s new to me and Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It is one of the best books of 2009.

This is an author with talent to burn but we get no writerly pyrotechnics. Meloy is confident enough to rely on her clear, unadorned prose to propel us along. Her stories flow, swiftly as a Montana stream, and get us there scarcely be
Sep 11, 2010 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: daddies' little girls; unfaithful men
Recommended to Jessica by: morgan
I wanted to be blown away by this, and I wasn't; thus the two stars. I don't mean at all to suggest that Meloy isn't a great writer, and in fact I'm almost certain that she is, but on a subjective level I didn't connect with her stories at all. One thing I'm realizing on my short-fiction mission is that it's tough to stick with one writer through a whole book of short stories if you don't personally care about their themes, because they are incessantly returning to and reworking the same stuff. ...more
Nov 28, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captivating short stories that make you think and appreciate. For anyone who loves books that so easily sheds the layers and opens up the human interiors without judgement, this book is for you. Such an easy quick read too.
Jul 29, 2009 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These stories will make you think as well as tug at your heartstrings. There is something in all of them that goes far beneath the surface of universal human truths. It's funny because the ages of the people range from just out of their teens to their 50's or so, though most are 30 or 40 something's, all of them are relatable however. You can feel for the 20 something farm hand falling for a slightly older woman just as much as you do for the middle aged couple contemplating the state of their m ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To write short stories, you need to be a bit of a magician. You need to pull characters out of a hat, breathe life into them, and weave a spell around the willing reader. Maile Meloy has that gift. Her 11 transfixing short stories are the only way you’d want them – effortless, genuine, and sometimes unpredictable.

In all these stories, the characters are faced with a choice (not unlike Robert Frost’s “Two Roads Diverged”). One choice usually takes them in a stable direction; the other freedom and
Maggie Tiojakin
Jul 22, 2010 Maggie Tiojakin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest, I expected BIG things from Maile Meloy's "Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It" -- because before I got to know the author, I was exposed to all kinds of excellent reviews which appeared in a number of well-respected publications. So, when "Both Ways" was chosen to lead the 2009 list of "Best Books of The Year" in The New York Times -- I thought to myself: I have to HAVE it! Nevertheless, with me living halfway across the globe (Indonesia) -- purchasing this book took quite a bit of ...more
Jan 18, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
It was short story time this weekend, as I hunkered down with this collection, Wells Tower's "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned", and "On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction" by Karl Iagnemma.

This was the winner of the bunch, though Wells Tower came in a close second. I liked almost all of the stories in this collection ("The Children" was the only exception, so that Meloy's batting average was 10 out of 11), and a few, "Lovely Rita", "Liliana" and "Agustin", were true standouts.

Despite all the rave reviews of this book, it just didn't do much for me. There was one story in the book I thought was pretty good, but I found the others just so so. Many of the stories had the same theme, infidelity, so it felt like I was reading the same story over and over with different character names. After reading the best short stories, you can feel as though you've read a whole novel because the story line and characters were so well developed. In this book, it felt more like reading ...more
Robin Rountree
Aug 06, 2009 Robin Rountree rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pastreads
I do love a book of short stories and had high hopes for this collection. I was, however, disappointed.

The stories never ended on a happy note, but that wasn't my main problem. I know it is so difficult to really develop both characters and plot in a short story. The plots were there...interesting with nice turns...but the characters were not much more than cardboard.

It was frustrating to read the stories (yeah, I didn't give up, I read them all) knowing that the author was CLOSE to a great stor
Jenny Shank
Mar 10, 2015 Jenny Shank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some writers achieve their effect on the reader through surface finery: poetic frills, dazzling description, or a quirky voice. Maile Meloy doesn't go in for that sort of thing, which is why when she gets you by the throat or heart, as she does in every story in her second story collection, Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, you never see it coming. The way a good seamstress hides her work by making her stitches neat on top and bottom, Meloy writes clean prose that seems like it must have been ...more
Nov 29, 2010 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It is a collection of short stories mostly featuring men and women living in the fringes of the American West. They inhabit those small, western towns were people still have one foot in older, more simple ways and one foot edging into the fast-paced, more technological world. The stories are written in a plain, honest language that feels natural for the setting and characters.

In general I'm not a big fan of short stories. They either draw me in and then leave me
Aug 25, 2009 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I should probably work on my bank of cliches, but both ways is exactly how Maile Meloy dishes it out: Her spare prose + that bull’s eye take on the human condition = Literature (yes, with a capital L).

As an undergrad I had an English professor tell me the short story genre was not a real one, that true Literature (literature with a capital L) could never call itself such under 250 pages. Needless to say (but in case it’s not), this professor’s specialties were 18th-century and Victorian novels.
Deborah Edwards
Sep 07, 2010 Deborah Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I am browsing through bookstore shelves, I tend to shy away from the short story collections. I'm not sure why. I know other readers who admit to doing the same thing, and they, like me, cannot say why. Maybe we just want to go on a journey, find a character or two, accept a premise, and then invest our time for the long haul. Perhaps we think if we understand a character, live a life with someone in the span of a few hundred pages, we may also understand ourselves - and others - a bit bett ...more
Patrick Faller
Meloy's is another collection of stories that is burdened by its reliance on formal constraints. The collection's title establishes the thrust of each piece--characters stuck between a rock and a hard place, forced to choose. This would be okay if not for the fact that short fiction as a genre rests of just such a convention. Short stories are constructs that dramatize the motivations and consequences of choices taken. It's a bit of letdown when Meloy brandishes the central convention of all goo ...more
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 Jo Case rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
The title of her fourth book is strangely apt for Maile Meloy. Her most recent novel, A Family Daughter, was a daring experiment in having it both ways, following the seductive literary soap opera that was her first. Liars and Saints followed the entwined lives of one Californian Catholic family, the Santerres, over sixty years. In A Family Daughter, Meloy resurrected a character whose death had been pivotal to Liars and Saints, making her the meta-fictional author of the original (and recasting ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm constantly bringing home short story collections in an attempt to read them. While I generally find the idea of doing so irresistible, I rarely get through the first story, let alone the first few pages. When I do I'm left feeling cold, as if I've missed something I was supposed to understand.

Having come across the New York Times' list of the best books of 2009 by chance while at the library, I decided that I -had- to bring home the book deemed the best of ten given my strange attraction to
Mar 13, 2016 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meloy's masterful stories unfold how (but not why) we hurt the ones closest to us. The world she creates with each short story is both immersive and fleeting, giving us just enough to understand what is happening and leaving us to find the "why" ourselves. The pacing of plot and layering of themes are especially remarkable. Most memorable were "Two Step" and "Rita", where the female characters do somewhat crazy things, but the reader suspends her belief to embrace the surrealism. Worth a peek, e ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic collection of short stories. Each of them is to the point, beautifully depicted, and haunting. The themes are somewhat depressing to contemplate -- from adulterous spouses who fail to follow through on their plans to leave (thus the title "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It") to father's betraying their daughters in unimaginable yet somewhat sympathetically to parents who are largely forsaken by their spoiled children. The majority of the stories are set in Montana with the remainde ...more
May 14, 2011 Jordan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I particularly liked the final two stories of this collection, "The Children" and "O Tannenbaum." Both center on male protagonists who have indulged in one marital indiscretion earlier in their lives (a kiss, a one-night stand), but who presently are considering embarking on affairs. They want it "both ways" in that they long for the "bathrobe-warm" security and stability of their families, their wife and kids, but they also long for the heady disorder and freedom of an affair. I also enjoyed "S ...more
Destinee Sutton
Jan 06, 2010 Destinee Sutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Destinee by: NYT Best of 2009
A while ago I said I was I taking a break from reading books about middle-class, middle-aged marriages and their discontents, but with this collection of short stories I'm back.

Meloy's perfectly written stories are about yearning and frustration (which, we all know, are the essential themes of middle-class, middle-age life, even if you're not married--or middle-aged). Sad as the stories were, I admired the writing and insight tremendously.

My favorite story, and probably the most lighthearted,
Kasey Jueds
Feb 19, 2013 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
These stories are devastating, in the best possible way. Spare, economical, and full of tremendous depth. Maile Meloy is like Tessa Hadley and Alice Mattison (two of my favorite, favorite fiction writers) in her ability to just nail slippery, often hidden, often shadowy human feelings and motivations--to hook them and lift them into the light for us to see. These stories feel perfectly emotionally true to me--only one ("Liliana") struck me as mildly lightweight, but maybe that's because it comes ...more
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2016 Reading Chal...: Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It 1 14 Feb 06, 2015 03:09PM  
Short Story lovers: Book review 1 6 May 11, 2014 06:59AM  
My interview with Maile Meloy 1 15 Jul 13, 2010 10:23AM  
  • If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • Nothing Right
  • Do Not Deny Me
  • Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry
  • A Short History of Women
  • Girl Trouble: Stories
  • Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
  • A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
  • Don't Cry
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
  • Selected Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • The Isle of Youth: Stories
  • Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories
  • Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories
  • Alone With You
Maile Meloy was born in Helena, Montana, in 1972. A Family Daughter is her third book. Her short stories have been published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Her first story collection, Half in Love, received the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters , the John C. Zacharis Award from Ploughshares, and the PEN/Malamud Award. Her first novel, Liars and Saint ...more
More about Maile Meloy...

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“His heart felt dangerously full, for the first time in years. That dried-up battered organ, suddenly flush with love. It could kill him.” 10 likes
“She craved a family, not having had enough of one to understand what a pain in the ass it was.” 9 likes
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