The characters here, whether humourous, tragic, or mildly absurd are likeable, believable, and not always predictable--ordinary people, but with quirks that make them memorable. I haven't had a collection of short stories stay with me as vividly for quite some time.
Even better, when I looked back through them, I realized that there's not a weak one in the bunch. I've always preferred longer short stories so I wasn't surprised that "The Sun is a Billard Ball" at 32 pages in length would appeal to me. Or the 25-page "Breaking Water." But even "Catalina" at only three pages is a solid and emotionally powerful account of a man's unexpressed grief. I read the story several times because what the author doesn't say is as telling as what he does. This is the sign of a good writer.
In the first of these three stories, the uncertainties and fears of impending illness and diagnosis are palpable; the tension is familiar and real. In the third, a Greek-American man, advised by an acquaintance to spend the day on Catalina Island, is angry and judgmental until, "He is surprised to see that the dry hills leaping from the water were like the Chora Sfakion in Crete. His friend must have known."
There's a wide range in age and emotional experience of his characters. Whether it's a seven-year-old girl who's afraid of water in the more lyrical "The Wind Just Right," or a seventy-eight-year-old playwright losing his home and life's work to wildfires in "The Old Topanga Incident," Meeks is capable of seeing and writing from very different perspectives.
He shows great versatility, too, by writing in the voice that most suits each story. His use of the first person singular for the main character of "The Holes In My Door" lets us into the depression and obsessive fears of this recently separated man who's slipping into paranoid behaviour. Any other perspective would not have had the same power. The use of the second person in the "Topanga" story works well too. "You open the door" to shouting firemen, "you run down two flights of stairs", "you grab the play, the only copy", "you wonder whether you can make it through this". Urgency and loss are keenly felt by the reader, it's perfect.
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