Book Review & Giveaway: Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks

When Christopher Meeks contacted me recently and asked me to read his book for review here in Readerville, I was flattered and excited but also a little bit worried.  What if I didn’t like it?  I certainly have no trouble giving less-than-glowing reviews to books I’ve chosen to read, but how would I handle writing a negative review for an author who not only contacted me himself but was gracious enough to send me a copy of his previous collection and a signed copy of this book as a giveaway (more on that to come)?

I’m happy to report that I won’t be having to face those questions today, because Months and Seasons is a wonderful collection of short stories that reminded me why it is that I enjoy short fiction so much.  Other reviewers have called Meeks’s characters quirky and offbeat, but I don’t really see it that way.  Yes, they’re all a little bit weird…but aren’t we all?  As one character says to another in a story called “The Farms at 93rd and Broadway,”

We’re going to have a relationship here, and as in all relationships, it can get odd.

This sentence could be the summary tagline for Months and Seasons, and only in the very best possible way.  Meeks embraces and celebrates his characters’ humanity, and the stories he tells are stories about all of us.  They are stories about the ways in which our lives can be changed by momentary indiscretions, lapses in judgment, and mundane neuroses.  They are stories that illustrate and remind us of how tenuous the connections and relationships we have really are—how we can come thisclose to unraveling but somehow manage to put the pieces back together.

And sometimes we’ve ruined things beyond repair–by staying in a failed marriage too long, by wallowing in our failures and fears, by holding onto past loves and refusing to move forward–and Meeks’s presentation of these moments, of the fragility and vulnerability that so clearly define the human condition, is spot-on.  This is not a collection of happy stories, but it made me very happy because underneath the fear and fragility and tenuousness lie a great resilience and sense of hope that tie the stories together and that make this collection a very worthwhile read.

I love it when writers write well about characters who are also writers.  Knowing that Meeks is not only a writer but a teacher of writing, I found it interesting that several of his stories feature characters who are writers or teachers.  I couldn’t help but wonder which bits were autobiographical or based on someone he’s known, and it was wonderful to read stories that felt like they were about real people with real relationships and the very real challenges and problems that come with being human–being odd, as we all are–and dealing with other humans.

The old adage that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, is certainly not true of Christopher Meeks, and I’m happy to know that the writers of tomorrow are being taught by someone with such wonderful skill.  Read this book.  Support this up-and-coming author.  And while you’re at it, read his previous collection The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, which is also pretty darn good.  I’m giving Months and Seasons a very solid 4.5 out of 5.

And now the giveaway!!!  WIN A SIGNED COPY OF Months and Seasons. Here’s how:

1. Leave a comment here in which you share a line from literature (or, if you don’t remember specific lines, then share an idea/theme/take-home message) that you feel sums up human nature and/or relationships as nicely as the one I’ve quoted above–give an explanation, don’t just leave a quote– and you’ll receive one entry.

2. Post about the giveaway on your blog (be sure to leave a link in the comments here), and you’ll receive an additional entry.

I’ll read the entries and forward finalists onto Chris.  We’ll announce the winner here at the end of next week.

THE CONTEST WILL BE OPEN UNTIL 11:59 PM EASTERN TIME, WEDNESDAY AUGUST 13TH.  GOOD LUCK!

Click here to visit the author’s website.

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37 Responses

  1. I’m so glad that you liked it – especially because it’s on my TBR list down the road. Good luck with your giveaway. I hope it’s a great success.

  2. I would have to quote the first line from Pride & Prejudice.
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

    Thanks for the giveaway, the book sounds great!

  3. This collection of stories sound superb …thanks for your review

    ‘love for all hatred for none’…..justification to reform all human conditions>

    “Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world”
    War & Peace – LEO TOLSTOY

    THE ULTIMATE TRUTH = Love is all we need

  4. “Are not the majority of men disappointed with their lot, languishing in quiet desperation in their chains?”

    John Banville, The Sea.

    The first to come to mind, as I’ve just finished reading this excellent novel.

    Just found this blog today…think I might stay a while if that’s ok!?

  5. I’ve never been a big fan of short stories, but you make this one sound so good, that I want to read it. So, enter me, please!

  6. embejo: welcome! of course you can stay a while…so pull up a comfy chair, a good book, and grab your coffee.

  7. […] like to discover a new writer whose characters are wonderfully written–warts and all–ENTER MY GIVEAWAY TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF MONTHS AND SEASONS BY CHRISTOPHER MEEKS. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Love:mystery of lifehappy dustLove is critical to […]

  8. Hi, I have loved the book “The Little Prince” by Antoine de
    Saint -Exupery since I was a child! The little illustrations still mystify me! The author has said” When you give of yourself, you receive more than you give.” How true this is. I think most human beings are at their best when helping others who are in need. Giving not only makes the person receiving our love feel better, but is even better for the giver’s soul. I would be honored to be entered in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

  9. Definitely enter me. This book sounds amazing. As for a quote in a book that I feel defines people….I really love this one:

    “We accept the love we think we deserve”-The Perks of Being A Wallflower

    I believe this is very true of a lot of people, and it’s quite sad sometimes.

    -Lauren

  10. “Who is John Galt?”

    From Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I can’t get over that question.

    Eternal question about all of us…

    Count me in!

  11. […] only 4 days left to ENTER TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF MONTHS AND SEASONS BY CHRISTOPHER MEEKS.  CLICK HERE TO […]

  12. From Harry Potter:
    It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.

    So true!! Some of us dwell so much on what we want out of life, we forget to live the life we have. Deep. Yet, so simple.

  13. […] READERVILLE <—- Click there for your chance.   […]

  14. I just realized that I didn’t read the directions very well!

  15. That’s OK–there are still 4 days to enter, so just put in a quote, and you’re golden.

  16. Victor Hugo, of course, sums it up for me. “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.” Without this conviction our lives are empty, our spirits are suppressed, and our hearts are broken.

  17. Oops. From Les Misérables, of course.

  18. This quote is more specific (relating to twins) than yours but I just read it (actually listened to it on my iPod) yesterday in The Darling by Russell Banks:

    “Paul dominated his brother, as one twin always does.”

    As the wife of the dominant twin, this definitely sums up the relationship between twins as far as I’ve seen it!

    I blogged about your giveaway here:

    http://blog.literarily.com/2008/08/03/autosaved-84758-pm.aspx

    Cheers,
    Shana

  19. sounds like a solid collection of stories…

    “It may be the curse of the human race, not that we’re so unlike each other, but that we are so alike.” – The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie

    indeed Human Nature is the great constant as Mr Rusdie put it ever so eloquently

  20. The first quote that came to my mind is from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

    I think it just about sums up human relationships – you’re either happy or you’re not. :) No, really this quote has always made me think deeply about the way families can be so different and their personal tragedies can manifest themselves in so many different ways, yet we are all human. We all feel hurt and pain and happiness.

  21. […] Tuesday, I wrote about my weekly memes, then on Wednesday, I reviewed Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks and announced my contest to win a signed copy of this great collection of short […]

  22. I read The Little Prince lifetimes ago when I was learning French and one line has always stuck with me—though I’ve never read an English translation I’m using one here for the benefit of all the readers: “Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.” I’ve always thought this was a good life lesson. You’ve got to put up with a bit of unpleasantness to get anything beautiful.

    One of my favorite lines about relationships comes from a film (which was based on a book), Jules et Jim (my translation): “I’m the unhappiest man in the world, because I have two wives: the first wife, and the second wife.” There is a lot wrapped up here. Is he unhappy because he has to deal with two women, or because one of the women is “first” and the other “second”? Also, the line is spoken by a character recounting a tragic play he saw years before; the character himself is part of a love triangle in which he is “the first wife”—he is extremely unhappy but the quote suggests he believes his straying spouse is even more unhappy.

  23. I blogged you here:

    http://carolsbloggys.blogspot.com/2008/08/so-many-books-so-little-time-enter-by.html

    As for quotes, this is one I like since I like science fiction — and I like math and am good at it! It makes me feel superior (just kidding).
    “Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.”
    Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

  24. The week isn’t up on the giveaway of my book, but I wanted to pipe in here how impressed I am with the entries so far. This very site and the responses remind me why people read: to discover life as lived and make some understanding of it. There are lines we remember and carry with us.

    When I write stories, I’m not in the least concerned with will I come up with such lines, but I do seek truth. That truth sometimes comes down to a line.

    Eleven years ago, I received a call out of the blue from the chair of the English department at Santa Monica College. She’d heard good things about my teaching creative writing at CalArts and would I consider teaching Freshman Composition at her college? I was flattered and then took it as a challenge. Many of my own English teachers had been pedantic or arrogant, suggesting only someone as educated in English as they could really understand a book. It was only after I focused on writing, which led to lots of reading, did I realize how great Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other award-winning writers could be, and I asked myself how did my professors drain the magic of those books so thoroughly?

    Thus my challenge to myself was to allow my students to find the joy somehow. One method I’ve used is to select contemporary novels, two different ones each semester–one from a male author, one from a female author. That’s how I discovered “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, which Readerville will review this week. I had students so caught up in that book, they admited to me they had never read a whole novel before. In high school, they’d read only the Cliff Notes to books (which is another reason to choose contemporary novels; ironically, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has Cliff Notes now). One student described the act of reading is like “watching a movie, but the movie is in my head.” She was jazzed and wanted to find another book as great.

    I had similar responses with “The Kite Runner,” “The Time-Traveler’s Wife,” “The Things They Carried,” “The Color Purple,” the first “Harry Potter” and more. Once people discover what novels and short stories can do, they’re hooked forever. Readerville and people who come here are hooked–that’s fun to see.

    Thank you to Readerville for reading, reviewing, and supporting my work so well. With over 200,000 books with ISBN numbers coming out each year and maybe another 80,000 or more self-published titles without ISBN numbers and normal distribution, it’s hard to be seen and discovered. I thank you all.

  25. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and am revising my review as I write this. Sadly, the last time I heard someone say they’d never read a whole novel before but finished “this one,” it was in reference to Twilight , which I think is a travesty…but I suppose I’ll take what I can get when it comes to getting people to read.

    Looking forward to your guest post and announcement of the winner this Friday!

  26. Okay, so here’s my quote – “. . . love is a great beautifier.” from Little Women.

  27. Thanks for hosting the contest. Definitely count me in.

    Life is in the striving, not the achieving, and so I give you a few lines of Chesterton:

    And I dream of the days when work was scrappy,
    And rare in our pockets the mark of the mint,
    When we were angry and poor and happy,
    And proud of seeing our names in print.

  28. […] Rebecca at Readerville is giving away a signed copy of months and seasons by Christopher Meeks here. […]

  29. Thanks for the review, Meek’s books sounds fantastic –

    From Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s (character) last lines amount sum it all up:

    “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

    Human nature is so simple. The connections you make with others does nothing but strengthen your inability to be a hermit. simple communication can destroy one’s ability to stay separate, clean, and clear.

    you see a similar clarity in many books, but recently it was most visually evident in a kids book i read titled, Cold Tom.

    Tom, being an elf, can actually see the vines and organic elements that bind families friends and humanity together. the more he interacts with humans, the stronger their binds to him become. they are both suffocating and comforting. as with all of us, it is a juggling act to determine which is more important, the suffocation or the safety of relationships and society.

    side note: i have been meaning to post a review for Cold Tom, but have not gotten around to it. i will likely use this comment as the basis for the review, thanks for getting me thinking :)

  30. […] forget to enter to WIN A SIGNED COPY OF MONTHS AND SEASONS BY CHRISTOPHER MEEKS.  THERE’S ONLY 1 DAY LEFT! Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Handmaid’s Tale – Book Reviewthe […]

  31. […] started even commenting), It appears that i caught the tail end of a contest that Rebecca over at Readerville was running. Readerville is running a contest to give away a copy of Months and Seasons by […]

  32. Okay I wanted to enter this before but couldn’t come up with a good quote! I thought about using the first line of Pride and Prejudice, but I can see somebody else already posted it!

    I finally decided to go with: “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.” from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

    While many would argue that the opposite is true, I feel like this sums up human nature. We’re able to look beyond appearance and find out what lies in the heart.

    Great giveaway. I’d love to win this since I had such a good time with my last short story read.

  33. […] signed copy of Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks.  If you missed my review last week, click here. I’ve had a great time exchanging emails with Chris, and in the process of selecting a […]

  34. […] Tuesday, I wrote about my weekly memes, then on Wednesday, I reviewed Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks and announced my contest to win a signed copy of this great collection of short […]

  35. […] been talking to Christopher Meeks, author of Months and Seasons, and trying to get him to join LT and participate in an author chat because I loved his book and […]

  36. […] and reviewed this collection and really enjoyed it.  Check out what’s been said about it on The Book Lady’s Blog, Devourer of Books, and Rebecca’s Reads for reviews written by readers who appreciate short […]

  37. […] was nominated for his collection Months & Seasons (my review here), which many of us in the blogosphere have loved and raved about. How wonderful to see a great […]

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