months and seasons by Christopher Meeks
Summary (from back cover): With a combination of main characters from young to old and with drama and humor, the tales pursue such people as a supermodel who awakens after open-heart surgery, a famous playwright who faces a firestorm consuming the landscape, a reluctant man who attends a Halloween party as Dracula, and a New Yorker who thinks she’s a chicken.
Review: I’m so pleased to review this collection of short stories — it was pleasure from beginning to end, and while the summary above presents the variety of characters presented, it does not express just how well Meeks realizes and brings to life each of vastly different personalities.
Short stories can be a bit of an acquired taste, especially for readers who enjoy living with characters for hours, days, even weeks. On the other hand, a well-written short story is the best of both worlds — a manageable emotional investment without the long-term commitment of a novel.
What I particularly enjoyed about Meeks’ collection was his ability to portray the unique challenges of existing at this particular time, especially for men. I have often suspected that it is more difficult to be a man, at least in America, because our society seems to expect so much, and in such a limited, defined way, when it comes to American male identity.
Meeks addresses a number of common challenges and fears — of prostrate cancer, of becoming trapped in an unsatisfying marriage, of AIDS, of believing in the wrong belief system. What is delightful about his protagonists is that they approach these common fears in very unique and believeable ways.
After each story, I had a better understanding of what it is like to be male in America and my empathy was palpable, even when the men weren’t particularly sympathetic characters. If I had to choose one or two sentences that unify the entire collection, I would choose
‘We’re just ‘beings toward death,’ right? Martin Heidegger said we’re all looking for an authentic life before the inevitable happens. We’re supposed to face death and have a healthy anxiety towards it.’
This “mortal coil” is what the characters have in common — as do we all. But how each character approaches this contradiction — how to live with the knowledge of death — with varying degrees of grace and awareness, is what makes this collection fascinating and memorable. I think men seem to “obsess” about mortality even more than women do — I don’t know why and am probably wrong — but grappling with this reality is fascinating to witness.
Now although the male characters fascinated me, I’ll admit my favorite story had a female protagonist, which is a testament to Meeks’ writing. While reading “Breaking Water,” I never thought, “this man portrays the female consciousness well.” Rather, I was fully engaged in the specific struggles and triumphs of Merrill. And although her story felt just right — length-wise, etc. — I was still disappointed when the story ended because it meant that Merrill would then leave my life.
Happily, Meeks’ upcoming collection The Brightest Moon of the Century will follow one character, Edward, but will still be written as short stories (as Melissa Banks did with The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing). The release date for this collection is March, so you still have time to read months and seasons, as well as Meeks other collections.
Interested? I hope so! If you would like a chance at a free copy, simply leave me a comment below! And, don’t forget, our next Tiny Tale will be revealed on August 1st!