With Always Happy Hour, Mary Miller has written a collection of short stories that pulled me in immediately. Each story had me wanting more and some were hard to shake. She really nails it with these stories, so much so that I found myself highlighting sentences over and over again.
Her stories are about women; women who could be me, you, or the girl that lives next to you in your apartment complex. They are all from different walks of life: some are teachers, some are in college, divorced, etc.–all wanting to find love. Some think they’ve found it, but can’t decide if they want to keep it. Some only want to give it. Others don’t think they’ll ever find it, because they’ve been hurt or because they’ve made poor decisions. In one of the stories Miller writes, “She thinks about the things that have hurt her and she thinks about beauty and how little of it she sees in even beautiful things. She wonders if people who’ve been hurt more see more beauty. She wonders how a few strung-together words can seem so meaningful when she doesn’t believe them at all.” Miller has a way with words, she writes these women’s thoughts out right and honest–it’s refreshing.
Miller’s stories are sometimes heavy, gritty, and disturbing. One that was particularly difficult to read was “Big Bad Love” about a young woman working at a shelter for abused children. This women is taking care of children that have seen things, felt things, and know things far beyond what they should. She’s close to one child in particular and states at the end that she just hopes the child will remember that someone, at sometime in her life, loved her.
One of my other favorites is called “At One Time This Was The Longest Covered Walkway In The World.” It’s about a young woman in a relationship with a divorced father of a four-year old boy. There are points in the story where she seems to adore the child, and then there are times where she wishes he wasn’t in the middle of her relationship with this man. While looking at the young boy’s brown eyes, she thinks to herself, “My boyfriend’s eyes are blue. I want to ask my boyfriend what color his ex-wife’s eyes are because if they’re blue, then the boy isn’t his and we could be spending our nights alone.” She seems selfish, but I think she’s just trying to figure out how to love someone who already has to share his love, and who has already created a family without her.
Miller’s stories are deep, funny, bitter, ugly, beautiful.
Tom Franklin had this to say about Always Happy Hour: “I adore Mary Miller’s stories, and you will too. Read this book and then read her others. Like, now.”
I agree. I’m off to read more of Mary Miller’s work.
Mary Miller will serve as a panelist on the “Stories from the South” discussion at the Mississippi Book Festival on Saturday, August 19 at 10:45 a.m. at the State Capitol in Room 201A.