Reading Maile Meloy

I first read Maile Meloy’s work through a short story in an anthology I had purchased during my Master’s program.  I took my oldest daughter to the park at that time (she was younger and my only one), and I sat on a picnic blanket and read while she played.  It was a warm spring day, and as I read for pleasure, not assignment, I fell in love with one of the stories.  It was “Ranch Girl” by Maile Meloy, and I realized that this was a story from an author I had been waiting to read.  I had reserved one of her short story collections, Half in Love, at the library.  It never appeared.  To this day, I have not seen that particular volume.  My library does not have Meloy’s books.  It’s a pity.

I began purchasing her books.  They are captivating and simply beautiful.  I began with Liars and Saints (2004), my favorite of hers.  I could not put it down.  The prose is uncomplicated and the story is gripping.  It is about a family and their ups and downs, caused by both human error and action and the context of culture, time, and place.

meloy liars and saints

I immediately read the “sequel,” A Family Daughter (2006), and found that Meloy had turned her characters and the story on their heads.  The reality in the first book was the not the reality of the second book.  The entire plot is shifted and an alternative narrative is presented.  It is quite shocking, and as a reader, I preferred the first book, my first reality, and my first encounter with the characters.  However, both are good reads.

meloy family daughter
I loaned these books to a good friend of mine.  She didn’t end up reading them, but her daughter Jennie, also a good friend of mine, did.  Jennie is some 12 years younger than me, but a deep thinker and a deep feeler.  She’s currently majoring in English in at a local university.  She loved these books, too.

I have also read a short story collection by Meloy since then called Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (2010).  I ordered it as soon as it came out and read it within a few days of receiving it.  Each story has its own beauty and exploration of human nature.  The feeling I get when I think about Meloy’s novels are wonder, curiosity, admiration, and anticipation.  She is a fine writer.

meloy both ways

I still haven’t read Half in Love (2002), the short story collection that began my obsession.  Perhaps it is time to track it down.

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33 thoughts on “Reading Maile Meloy

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  1. I have never heard of Maile Meloy. Thanks for introducing her to me. I will definitely have to check her out. It sounds like she is experimental in her narrative, kind of turning the idea of sequels on its head.

    1. Yes, exactly! I wish I could describe it better, but I honestly can’t remember many of the specific details, just the experience. It has been too long. Maybe I should reread! I hope you enjoy her work.

  2. This sounds like the kind of left-field thinking and writing that I love to read. Both interesting and thoughtful. Thanks for the review!

    1. Yay! I hope you like her. And I can’t remember if there is swearing or not, so please don’t be mad at me if there is some language. 🙂 If there is some, as far as I remember there isn’t much.

  3. Not sure how I’ll fit in reading all these that you recommend, but you do such a good job of it, I have to try!

  4. I’ve read A Family Daughter and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It–and now it’s time to read Liars and Saints. I didn’t realize they connected. Incidentally, her brother is Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and the author of Wildwood, which I also want to read one of these days.

      1. Wildwood is an illustrated book–maybe for middle grade? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard it’s lovely, and it has been on my to-read list for a while. (Such a while, in fact, that I think there’s a sequel…)

  5. Yes, I too, will be adding these to my list to hopefully read eventually. I love short stories quite a lot. I also didn’t know that Colin Meloy had a talented sister, so having read and enjoyed Wildwood and truly adoring The Decemberists, it will be interesting to see what sister Meloy also has to offer. Some families, apparently, have an overdose of talent.

  6. I’ve only heard of Liars and Saints but it’s long been on my TBR — I’ll add the rest of her books and bump her up higher — everything you’ve shared absolutely resonates with me. Have you read any Penelope Lively? I don’t know if they’re similar but Lively’s books are all favorites — abt family, place, history. They’re just wonderful. I could recommend some if you want (if you need to add to your TBR! ;))

    1. I have read Lively, but it has been a while. From what I can remember, Meloy’s books are more accessible than Lively’s, but definitely similar themes. Great connection!

  7. Half In Love is a great read. Ranch Girl, of course, is the star of the collection in my opinion, but the rest of the collection has that same haunting beauty. I agree, it’s high time you track it down.

  8. Like you, I came across Meloy through Half in Love. Although “Ranch Girl” wasn’t on my list of top stories in that volume, I loved the collection. Actually, I loved it so much I chose Meloy for an extended study in a graduate-level course on contemporary American fiction last semester. Meloy can tell a great story from many different perspectives and for many different audiences–great depth of thought in very accessible language.

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