I’ve always felt that the test of a good book is that it is just as good on a second read as on an initial read. R.L Maizes debut short story collect, We Love Anderson Cooper, passed the test. And it’s now in my to-be-read pile for a third reading.
I am a big reader of short stories. And I especially enjoy collections where a common thread ties the stories together. The common thread in Maizes’ book is the unique perspective of each of the main characters. Maize has created quite a diverse collection of characters. They are all somewhat outsiders, whether by their nature, their actions, or circumstances.
The eleven stories cover a wide range of characters. And Maize is able to give each character their own unique voice. First, there is the young Jewish boy preparing for his bar mitzvah in the opening story, “We Love Anderson Cooper”. He has been assigned to read a passage from the book of Leviticus that condems homosexuality and homosexuals. There is a young girl in the story “No Shortage of Birds” who watched her professional golfer father get killed by an errant golf ball. She was too stunned to warn him of the ball coming at his head. The girl then has to deal with her mother buying a parakeet and naming it after the dead father. In the story “Ghost Dogs”, the sense of loss is handled differently, by a totally different character, this one a middle aged female lawyer. Her husband has just walked out on her and her dogs died, due to her negligence. Then the couch in her office, inherited from her grandmother, collapses. The painter in “Tattoo” doesn’t deal with the loss of a loved one. He is suffering from painter’s block. He turns his artistic skills and training into becoming a tattoo artists. He struggles from his own apparent success as his tattoos seem to help the sick and disfigured people who come to him.
The book is very well written. The stories flow quickly and smoothly. They are a real joy to read. And I loved the endings of pretty much every story. There are no heavy handed epiphanies, “lessons learned”, or morales to these tales. The endings may be a little unexpected, a little quirky, but perfectly suited to each character. There is the laid-off project manager in “Better Homes and Gardens” who has settled into a job as a pizza delivery person. He runs away from his wife and two daughters and moves in with a young single mother who was also laid off from her job as a computer programmer. The main character in the story “Couch”, is a female therapist. The couch in her office, inherited from her grandmother, seems to be the key to her success of her business as a therapist, until it falls apart one day. She finds a replacement couch, which almost destroys her business, as it helps everyone who sits on it to feel better immediately, so that they only ever come to see the therapist once. She had promised the owner of the shop where she picked up the new couch to make a donation to an animal shelter in lieu of payment. When she finally goes to make the donation, low-and-behold, a new couch. Just what she was looking for.