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.