October 05, 2011

Review: The Other Side by E. Thomas Finan

Paperback: 124 pgs
Publisher: The Fieldnor Press
Published: November 9, 2010
    Kindle Version: July 16, 2011

This debut collection of short stories by a rising young voice in American letters takes on the human condition with grit, humor and penetrating insight.

The stories of The Other Side explore our connections and disjunctions with other people. Refusing the glib comforts of rote despair or false happiness, The Other Side focuses on moments of personal growth as well as times of falling short - on the emotional hinges, defeats and victories of life.

More and more, I am becoming a huge fan of short stories. They force the author to get to the point fairly quickly, they make the characters pop out at you by giving them such a short amount of time to live in your imagination, and they are so powerful in that they can have such a huge impact on you in so short a read.
I finished this book of short stories in about a day, simply because it was so entertaining! I love Finan's quirky characters and unusual stories. Here's a rundown of how I felt:

Lucy di Sartoria: This story focused on the marriage of one particular couple, with the woman so very clearly cheating on her husband. What I loved about this story was two things: 1) The husband is a painter and the woman is a dancer and a model - so in essence, they're both artists. And throughout the story, you see the two of them dancing around each other, or acting like nothing's wrong - trying to avoid the issue at hand. The way they're personal and professional lives merge until they're not sure who they are as people or as artists or as husband or wife anymore is intense. 2) I love this idea that just because the marriage isn't what it used to be, doesn't mean that it can't fixed, or at the very least, changed. I mean, you go into this story with a sense of dread for this couple, but then at the end, you have this glimmer of hope. It was awesome.

Motley Black: If you read just one of the stories in this book, make it Motley Black. In this story, we join a man on a cross-country bus trip. He just wants to be left alone, but everyone/everything keeps bothering him. This story is so hilarious, and so relate-able. I mean, how many of us can think of all the times in this world that we just want to be left alone, but in trying to do so, end up completely opposite?

Dunes Like White Elephants: This is my 2nd favorite story. It also feels like the shortest (I can't really tell with the kindle version). This story features a man and a woman talking about having a baby. You can't really tell how old the two are - but this story is just so romantic and well-told. In just a few pages, you are completely wrapped up in their world.

Billy Stevens in 28:  This story was about a guy who looks back on his 20's and sees a whole lot of monotony and missed chances. It's actually kind of depressing, lol. But it was still a good read and to be honest, it's kind of inspiring because it makes you want to get up and take advantage of life right now. No more waiting until years down the line, when you'll regret it.

The Tie that Binds: This story was so good! It's about a group of old parishioners trying to turn their old church into a museum. It's about change, preservation, history, and hope. A definite read!

An Aria of Windows: This story is literally about a person who constantly thinks about one missed call and the voice mail that was left behind. I found this story to be so true to the human psyche and the way we pick at things and break them down until there's nothing left.

The Other Side: This story features a woman who is keeping a journal for her doctor about the strange things that are starting to happen in her life. We're reading the story into her life, and we learn that this woman is not as normal as she seems. This is definitely the most sci-fi of all the stories in the book, and it was also romantic as well. I think that this story represents the idea that not everything is as it seems, and at the same time, that no matter how weird things are in your life, there is always someone just like you. I think it ties the entire novel together by pointing out that every story can mean something different to whoever is reading it - and everyone will get something different out of it.

All in all - I loved this book and I think everyone should buy a copy and share with me which stories were your favorites!!

5 out of 5 stars

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