Review of Maile Meloy
By Rachel Brown
Maile Meloy’s writing is clear and concise, and still succeeds at realistically dissecting the human condition, particularly the insatiability of human desire. Her short stories are poignant, convincing and impactful. In each story of “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It” the reader is immersed into the lives of the characters for short, yet significant moments. Each moment is unique, and ultimately they all convey the same theme, relating back to the title of the collection. Meloy is ambiguous through each story and she leaves the characters to make their own decisions or continue to be anguished.
Meloy’s protagonists are neither flawless nor principled; they are wrestling with desires, temptations, self-inflicted pressures and the choice between staying comfortable where they are or taking a chance with something unfamiliar. Throughout each story, Meloy is never critical of the characters’ actions; she never suggests that one option is better than another or that any character should be considered a bad person because of their conflicting thoughts. Author Curtis Sittenfeld writing for the New York Times said, “They [her characters] are people who act irrationally, against their own best interests…and Meloy’s prose is so clear, calm and intelligent that their behavior becomes eminently understandable.” Even though the reader knows the characters are acting against what is best, their conflicts and desires seem reasonable. In turn, the sensible and logical characters, such as the faithful spouses and innocent children, seem like they are the bad guys holding the protagonists back from what they really crave. For example, Fielding in “The Children” is struggling with the choice of staying with his wife, Raye, or leaving her for his much younger mistress, Eleanor. Meloy inserts no judgment, but writes “You could drop his wife alone in the dark woods and she would make tools out of nothing, build herself a shelter and tame the bears” implying that Fielding’s wife does not even need him (195). While Fielding is tempted with the notion of leaving, he looks at his wife, musing on their relationship, and is torn with indecision. The reader is left not exactly liking Fielding, but understanding his desire to have both his wife and his mistress. Meloy uses all of her characters and details purposefully to develop the conflict into an increasingly difficult choice not only in “The Children” but also in each story.
Meloy’s writing is clear and succinct. There is no need to give an introduction to her stories, she puts the reader right in the middle of a conflict and it flows beautifully. In a few short pages, Meloy is able to develop the story, invest the reader’s attention, describe the conflict and finish the story with appropriate finality. In “Red from Green” Meloy effectively puts the reader into the mind of 15 year-old Sam who is struggling with leaving home for boarding school or staying home to protect her father. Sam deals with the choice between her desire to grow up and experience the scandalous behavior of her boarding school peers or her option to ignore her scholarship, stay with her father and retain her innocence. Ultimately, Sam chose to attend boarding school,” [she] was red-eyed and nervous, but had decided that she didn’t know anything, and the idea of going away was to learn (40). Sam knew that not only would she learn while in class, but also that being with her peers would teach her more than she could ever learn at home. Meloy ends the story with the girl at school, but still reflecting on how her father is at home. Though one could imagine learning more about the character, the story does not require one because it is clear that she has made the decision to grow up, but will never forget her hometown.
“Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It” is packed full of emotional stories with characters seeking empathy from their readers. The characters are human; not perfect, but real. Because of the challenges the characters face and the authenticity of the situations, the reader cannot put down the book. Meloy has fantastically written eleven short stories, each uniquely conveying the intensity of desire, the many forms it can come in and its ultimate insatiability. Meloy never suggests a decision or implies which decision is better; she simply conveys that while we all want it both ways, eventually a choice must be made and the thought of what could have been will always linger in our minds.
One Cannot Have It Both Ways
By Lucy Vernasco
Humans wish they could have it all. I remember driving through McDonald’s as a child with my mother and five-year-old brother. My mother would ask us what we wanted and told our orders to the voice-box. My brother and I smiled and laughed about the episode of Arthur we had watched earlier that morning or how cranky my father was the night before. We were interrupted by my mother who passed back smiling Happy Meal boxes in an assembly line fashion. The car was silent except for the rustle of hamburger wrappers and French fry cartons. Suddenly a cry would break out—My younger brother hollering for chicken nuggets because it was what he really wanted. He had changed his mind the instant after we had paid and wanted it both ways. Often, we wonder what life would be like if we made another choice. Would life be more rewarding if one left his wife for a younger woman? When is it the right time to leave home? Is it always necessary to learn the truth, no matter the implications? In her collection of short stories Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Maile Meloy illustrates the inherent human longing for conflicting paths in life regarding love, independence, and fate.
Maile Meloy’s short story, “The Children”, illustrates the story of a man facing his acts of adultery. Fielding, a husband and father, debates whether to leave his wife and tell her about his mistress or remain with the easy comfort and security of his wife. Fielding “had the thought of taking his mistress away from the town he’d lived in all his life, rather than face the collective disapproval” (Meloy 194). Leaving his home would be a risk, possibly an attractive one. Fielding finds his mistress “pliable and willing, vulnerable where his wife was girded and bulletproof” (202). The whole afternoon, he is anxious. He is not unwilling to tell his children about his mistress nor would he be able to face their disapproval. Finally, as he rests with his wife later in the evening, he realizes he could tell his wife at that moment about his plans, but finds himself unable to. Fielding “tried to determine if he was paralyzed with indecision or only mired in comfort” (208). Similar to many characters in Meloy’s short stories, Fielding’s problem is that he wants the situation to work both ways. He wants to live young and fearlessly with his mistress, but is comforted by the predictably of his wife and her ways he’s always known. As we grow older, we wish to hold on to our sense of youth, but we understand we must grow and age. Meloy captures the longing for youth and risk in her story of a man who cannot chose whom he wants to love.
“Red from Green” is a coming of age story about Sam, a fifteen-year-old girl on the cusp of independence. She has a chance to attend a boarding school, and “applying had been her father’s idea, but now he looked dismayed every time the subject came up” (25-26). Though fifteen “sounded old to her” (25), Sam is still a naïve character. On a float trip with her father, uncle, and their client Sam is first exposed to adult-like situations. She interacts with the client, Layton, and senses his “attention was different from other adult attention” (31). One night, after her father leaves Sam and Layton at the campfire, the situation turns sexual. Sam had “never seen a man look that way before” (36). Sam is caught between safe childhood with her father and an unknown independence at the boarding school. The scenes with Layton and Sam represent her indecision. Meanwhile, her father is not ready to let Sam leave either. Though he suggests she apply for the scholarship, “her father drove her to the airport, and carried her bag right up to the gate before saying, for the first time, that he didn’t really want her to go” (39). Sam’s father wants it both ways, as well. He wishes to preserve his daughter’s childhood, but by leaving her at the campfire he is letting her have new experiences and grow. Meloy writes of the conflict all humans face as they grow.
The truth is right before him in the form of a high school girl. Though the trial is finished, Leo’s “questions remained unanswered” (115); What exactly happened on the night of his daughter’s death? In “The Girlfriend” Leo, a devoted father interrogates the girlfriend of his daughter’s killer to hear the truth, but at the same time he is unsure if he truly wants to know what happened. Through the girlfriend, he learns he had a part in the death. His daughter was killed because he called the police. However, he was only trying to be a good father, “and he had tried to fix things and got it wrong” (127). Through her story, Meloy describes human nature’s innate curiosity. We crave the meaning of events, but often find ignorance blissful. The implications of Leo’s new knowledge will last longer than the meeting with the girlfriend. He knew “that his anger with her was nothing compared to the reckoning with himself that would come later, for the rest of his life” (126). After the girlfriend has left, Leo remains conflicted and feels “there might be decades left for him not to forgive himself” (128). Perhaps what happened was fate and Leo could not have done anything to stop it. He realizes he has the rest of his life to accept this.
Meloy’s simply narrative style allows her to write wonderfully realistic short stories about characters caught in conflict. Connected by their intense longing for love, independence, and the truth the characters view the possibilities and must accept the path they choose. Opportunities are found in every situation and it is human nature to only want all of them.
Review of Maile Meloy’s Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
By Eric Mann
Everybody in life wants something both ways. Maile Meloy’s “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It” has been rated in the 10 best books by The New York Times book review. Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, is filled with eleven short stories that are completely different except for one underlining theme. And just like the title says, this theme is that every character in each story wants something in their life to go both ways even though they know it’s not possible. Each story has a powerful collection about human desires and its life-changing force. All eleven stories jump deep into all of the obstacles that exist in our everyday lives. These obstacles in life include love, friendship, vocation, and family and how everybody tries to conquer all influences in their lives.
As it goes for Maile Meloy, her whole life was based on situations that she wanted both ways. When Meloy wrote “Swimming to Montana,” she really portrayed instances in her own life in which she really wanted something both ways. In the writing, Meloy says, “I realize I want it both ways: it’s why I live in Los Angeles, and it’s why I go back to Montana. I want the illusion of time suspended, and I want the reality principle of time passing.” And as she writes this about her own life, we can then begin to relate even more to all of the stories that she wrote in “Both Ways Is the Only Way I want It.”
After reading Maile Meloy’s “Swimming to Montana” essay, it gives some really good insight on why she wrote some of the short stories she did in “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It.” The one story that seems to relate the most to Meloy’s own life occurrences would be “Red From Green.” Montana, is where the character Sam Turner lives as well as where Meloy grew up most of her life. Then later on in the story, Sam ends up going to boarding school away from all her family, just as Meloy did in real life. We can then see the similarity between them even more once we realize what Sam and Meloy want both ways. Although they are both happy with the decision they made to leave everything behind, they both have a thought in their mind that they only wish that they could be in both destinations because they love both equally as much. This is noticeable when Sam, “thought about her father eating dinner alone on the dark winter nights, with no one to talk to. The shampoo dispensers on the walls of the girls’ gym showers that said: Montana Broom and Brush.” This is when Sam realizes that she really does miss Montana and her father but at the same time loves all the new people she is meeting at her new school. And as Meloy wrote in her essay, “I realize I want it both ways. That’s why I live in Los Angeles and it’s why I go back to Montana.”
There are so many different instances where someone has wanted a specific circumstance to go “both ways”. And in Maile Meloy’s “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It,” she touches on the fact that everyone wants an instance with love, friendship, and family to go both ways at some point in our lives. Like Meloy wrote, “Time suspended has its own monotony, and time passing has its own pleasures: it’s like hot weather and cold water in the pool. What you want is both together.” What if we could actually suspend time? Could everyone end up having everything they have ever wanted both ways? Only time can tell.
By Kriste Lapkus
Through numerous situations in our everyday lives, there is a time when we are torn between the choices of having and wanting. In the collection of short stories in Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Mailie Meloy illustrates this element of human nature. Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It is a collection of 11 short stories extraordinarily written that draw sthe reader in with the realistic plots. In this collection, Meloy illuminates how often individuals are torn between decisions, choices, or fantasies that they simply cannot choose between. One of the many prominent ideas throughout these stories is the idea that a wrong decision or a difficult past is an obstacle that can be overcome through rebellion. In the stories “Travis B.”, “Agustin”, and “Spy vs. Spy”, the characters’ past experiences and regrets cause moments of rebellion in order to defy these obstacles.
In “Travis B.”, poor health due to childhood polio causes a Montana native to prove to others that he is stronger. Because of his polio, many people, including his mother, don’t have faith in Chet Morgan, but since his teen years, Chet “started riding spoiled and unbroken horses, to prove to her that he was invincible” (1). He continued to ride dangerously, even while he broke numerous bones that further maimed his leg, in addition to his hip debility from polio. Another reason Chet had for fighting against his disability is that, “he developed a theory that horses didn’t kick or shy because they were wild; they kicked and shied because for millions of years they’d had the instinct to move fast or be lion meat” (1). Through his theory of wild horses, the author describes Chet’s feelings towards his own nature to the readers. To Chet, the basis of human nature is to keep on kicking and shying to fend for himself, for that is what humans were born to do, even if his, “cards have been so unevenly dealt” (2). To deal with his unfortunate disability, Chet attempts to prove himself to others through difficult situations, such as riding untrained horses.
In a different story, life-long tension and disagreements between two brothers causes a final moment of rebellion. In “Spy vs. Spy”, Aaron and George had brotherly disagreements since their youth that surpasses normal sibling rivalry. For instance, the first time they spoke in months, “Aaron assumed George wanted something: a larger share of what their parents had left them, or a loan, or some other favor that would annoy him” (71). There is no trust between the two brothers since the start of this short story. They speak curtly to one another and emotionally attack one other. During their fateful ski trip reunion, Aaron notices that his brother’s “ski students clearly loved him, and that seemed touching. Aaron’s patients didn’t love him that way. People loved their GPs and their dermatologists, but not their orthopedists. They saw him only under duress and he gave them frustrating news” (78). Evidently, Aaron is tense about the light-heartedness of his brother’s relationships. He realizes his dislike of being seen as the cold and rigid brother, which further fuels the disagreements between the two. This and a combination of the instances stated previously is what cause a rebellion, or literal fight between Aaron and George. The final and only act of rebellion in the two brothers’ relationship ends with this physical fight. At the end of the fateful trip, George agrees, “we should do this every year” (93), even though the dangerous fight on top of a ski mountain occurred. This proves that the fight between the two brothers forced them to resolve their disagreements. Consequently, through a final long- awaited fight, the two brothers solve their long-term disagreements through a final act of rebellion.
In “Agustin”, the main character and failed father rethinks his life and desires to accomplish something unorthodox from his old ways. Agustin’s wife’s death forced him to raise his daughters himself, but to no avail. In the beginning of his story, Meloy explains to the readers that “he tried to think back to a happier time—two round little girls in his lap, a living, loving wife—but it was no longer he. Children were experiments, and his had failed” (173). The reevaluation of his wretched life is what brought him to buy an elephant gun, which is a significantly impractical gun to shoot down anything but a literal elephant. Supposedly to Agustin “it was a magnificent firearm for his collection. But now he thought Africa might do him good” (176). Once he jokingly explains his grand plan to Africa to his daughter in order to irk her, he agrees that it would be an adventure for him. Later on in the story, Agustin’s raging emotions calm down and he thinks clearly. He begins considering that “he could go to Africa after all. He could let someone lead him to an infirm elephant and he could shoot it until it fell down” (187). The elephant is a metaphor for Agustin’s enormous feelings of disappointment and guilt for not being able to raise his children correctly. The elephant gun will be used symbolically to shoot down his vast conflicting feelings that have taken over his life. Agustin desires to hunt down his elephant of guilt from the disappointments of his past life, which in his point of view would be an accomplishment.
In “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It”, Mailie Meloy describes numerous instances when the main characters desire to achieve something worthwhile in order to forget their horrid pasts through acts of rebellion. In the stories, “Travis B.”, “Agustin”, and “Spy vs. Spy”, the main characters had a rough past in many different ways. Chet, Aaron, and Agustin attempt to change their life situation through one life-altering feat. Some accomplished, while others are still planning. The hopeful rags-to-riches story in some ways is written by Meloy in a more realistic way. Nevertheless, the wonder of Meloy’s writing is that the ending does not end. Even though she does not write the ending that is expected, the readers can still infer what will happen, for the characters have become so alive. In this way, these few stories will live on forever.
Maile Meloy Review
By Rachael Franks
Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, is a collection of short stories, a genre that carries a stigma of being inferior to the traditional novel. On her website, author Maile Meloy explains that the difference between short stories and novels is “like the difference between a long marriage and dating,” but says there are advantages to both. With novels, the period spotlighted is longer and can span a character’s life. Thus the relationship between reader and novel transcends written word more easily. Yet, a collection of short stories offers the reader a fresh relationship with each story. If well written, the story, despite how brief, will entice the reader. Evidenced by its success, named one of the New York Times ten Best Books of 2009, Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, has done just that. Due to its relatable situations and character development, Maile Meloy has penned a collection that is engaging, thought provoking and relevant.
“I Want It Both Ways,” encompasses eleven stories all uniquely special yet still cohesive. It opens with a curiously charming story entitled “Travis, B,” about a polio stricken horse wrangler who falls in love with a lawyer trying to escape her own stigmas. The collection ends with “Tannenbaum,” a story about Bonnie and Clyde. Not the infamous duo, although this story is riddled with cheating, lying and betrayal. The common thread in each story is the concept of wanting it both ways as the title alludes. Yet, this humanistic desire, as enthralling as it may be, is not enough to carry this collection alone. Luckily, Meloy has given her readers much more.
While a badly-written short story might feel unfinished, underdeveloped or unrealistic, none of those are fitting descriptions for Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It. Meloy is able to sufficiently establish characters by using vivid descriptions. Like in “Spy vs. Spy,” Meloy relays the complexity of her character by describing what she should be “hardy or sporty or gregarious “ and what she is, “delicate, prickly, and undernourished.” (76) The contradiction unveils a plethora of traits in a concise statement. In “The Girlfriend,” Meloy not only uses descriptions to carve out unique character traits, but also give insight into how characters view each other. When Sasha, the girlfriend of his daughter’s murderer, is in front of Leo he notices, “her features were immature and undefined under her makeup, and her black tank top hung loose, revealing small breasts in a black bra.” (117) Meloy utilizes imagery and description in her narrative to conceive a strong story within limited pages.
Important to any story, is the plot line it follows. This is one of the most difficult things to establish in short story as the past, present and future must be revealed in a way that is both clear yet compact. In “Agustin,” she subtly creates character history in dialogue as Agustin wonders “if [his daughters] would be more tolerable if their mother had lived.” (170) In a single statement, it is known that Agustin is widowed, he has children and their relationship is complex. Note worthy too, are the plot lines are not overly thought out as to force a climax, as Meloy relies on a realistic practices for guidance. Her characters like Sam, struggle to come of age as Leo struggles with surviving loss. Chet finds love and faces heartbreak like Naomi causes. A grandson with his own family struggles to accept the loss of his grandmother, despite her revival. Rita struggles to shed her childhood complexities, while Frank struggles to shed his marital obligations. There is sincere wholeness in each story.
Maile Meloy writes short stories that allow readers to bind to her book. Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It, is a forceful collection of short stories. Similar to the characters depicted, I too want it both ways. As impressive as each story is as it stands, after reading I crave more. This is the sign of a well-written story. Meloy has penned a collection that could dissolve the short story stigma for good.
Review of Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
By: Jaci Turner
Maile Meloy’s collection, entitled Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, is a series of short stories that chronicle the lives of eleven different characters, all facing a crucial point in their lives. Similar to one of her previous collections, Half in Love, stories feature characters that live in the American west and are at a crossroads. The premise of Half in Love’s “Ranch Girl,” is parallel to the basic storyline of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It’s “Red from Green.” Both stories follow young women who are deciding whether to lead comfortable lives with their families or to venture out into the larger world. Meloy’s stories force readers to put themselves in the circumstances she presents and to question how they would react in those positions.
Curtis Sittenfeld, in his review of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It on July 8th, 2009, published in the New York Times, said about the characters Meloy has created, “They are people who act irrationally, against their own best interests — by betraying those they care about, making embarrassing romantic overtures and knowingly setting in motion situations they’d rather avoid.” These are all situations that, when faced with a major life choice, many people bring upon themselves. Meloy shows that major life choices are hard: when people are shown two options they want both choices.
In “The Girlfriend,” the father of a college-aged girl is grieving after the conviction of her murder. Leo, however, is not satisfied with only knowing part of the story, so asks the girlfriend of the killer to a hotel room in order to finally find out the true sequence of events. Once he finds out that his actions led to the death of his daughter, he immediately regrets knowing the truth. He had no idea how much he had underestimated: “He had thought his faith in order was gone, but it wasn’t true, He had sought consolation in knowing and arranging the facts. He wanted a story and he got one. His daughter had stumbled into danger, and he had tried to fix things and got it wrong.” (Meloy 127). He is stuck in a stage of indecision, he does, yet he does not want to know the facts. His frustration puts the reader in a place to empathize with his dilemma; can Leo really blame himself for his daughter’s death?
One of the earlier stories in the collection, “Red from Green,” shows a father and his teenage daughter on their annual camping trip. Sam is between going to a boarding school on the east coast and staying with her single father in Montana. Even though this could be their last trip together, her father brings along her uncle and one of his clients. Her father leaves her alone with the man, wordlessly offering her for sex in exchange for a good testimony. He got up from the fire, “Sam looked at him and he nodded, as if agreeing to himself.” (Meloy 35). This turn in the plot left me, as a reader, speechless. How does a father do that to his only daughter? What kind of person does that? Meloy’s talent of twisting the plot shines in this father-daughter story.
The stories that Meloy presents show the internal conflicts that people deal with on a regular basis. She shows that everyday people go through complicated problems, and do not usually handle them in the way most people would deem “correct.” It allows us to question, “Who are those people? And, why do they make the decisions they do?” We think to ourselves, “What would I do in that situation?” Maile Meloy uses these stories to allow readers to reflect on how they make the critical decisions in their lives.
Analysis of Travis, B., Nine, and, Two-Step
in “Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It”
by Lauren Benner
Temptation, desire, and self-indulgence are all weaknesses that we give in to and experience at some point in our lives. Several of the stories Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, by Maile Meloy, convey the emotions of characters that are identical way to our own emotions: where we succumb to temptation and fulfill our desires to have it all. In the three stories I’ve chosen, the characters reap the consequences of their choices: they find that opting to choose the worst of both ways leaves them with nothing. These three stories acknowledge the reality of how we give in to what we want; the lesson being that we only hurt ourselves and end up losing more than when we started.
The story Travis, B., portrays the difficulty in having to separate our heads from our hearts; thinking logically about the outcome, even though it may contradict the ideal scenario we’ve played out in our minds. The protagonist of the story is Chet, a ranch worker whose job does not permit much social interaction. Growing up with the infliction of polio, Chet has never been given the opportunity to form new relationships with others. He often finds himself feeling alone, wishing for someone other than the horses to hear him out. One night he sees people gathering around a school. His curiosity brings him to Beth Travis, a law student teaching a class full of adults. Within the time he gets to know her, they share a few conversations at the local diner before she has to drive nine hours back home. Chet is enamored by her and the thought of being with her. He lingers in the moment, not thinking about the inevitable conclusion of their meetings; the unrealistic hope that a relationship could form with her clouds his judgment more each day. As quickly as Beth Travis comes into Chet’s life, she’s gone; no longer wanting to commute for the job. The desire in his heart outweighs any rationality in his mind of letting her go. The thought of what might be entices him to drive those nine hours to find her. He acts on impulse, and again ignores the magnitude of his actions. As he drives, he imagines in his head how their meeting will go. When he eventually finds her, he instantly wished he hadn’t. Her apparent lack of appreciation for his efforts felt like an “ache in his stomach… But he hadn’t been treated unfairly by Beth Travis; he didn’t know what he had expected. If she had asked him to stay, he would have had to leave anyway. It was the finality of the conversation that left him feeling sore and bruised” (Meloy 23).
There is a point in all of our lives where we can relate to Chet. The circumstances may not be the same, but Chet’s actions are enough to portray the irrationality of wanting to fulfill our desires and at what length we’ll go to make it happen. Chet listens to his heart and ignores the rational warning in his head. As we are the audience, we have the ability to be logical in viewing his situation. Chet’s irrational impulse to act on what “might be” gives us a third person perspective on our behavior in similar circumstances. The potency of his emotions blinds him to his responsibilities. Life doesn’t just stop to accommodate our feelings though. When we compare our experiences to Chet’s, we cannot overlook the consequences: what will happen when I get there? Is it worth the effort, only to learn it’s not the answer I’m looking for? Is it worth the risk when my instincts are telling me how unlikely it is going to turn out the way I want it to? When asking ourselves these questions, we can think back on how it worked for him: “He fished her phone number out of his pocket and studied it a while in the moonlight, until he knew it by heart, and wouldn’t forget it. Then he did what he knew he should do, and rolled it into a ball, and threw it away” (Meloy 24). The way Chet gave in to his emotions is a lesson for us: to think about the consequences of acting on impulse before we succumb to our desires; hence, the more effort you put in to a relationship that is one-sided, the worse the rejection will feel.
In the story Nine, the theme portrays insincere motives making up a relationship. It is about the power of emotions, and the mistake of a new relationship to replace what was lost; as with all matters of giving in to our desires, excitement and distraction are only temporary. The story is conveyed by a young girl, Valentine, on the instability of her mother’s new relationship. The boyfriend, Carlo, makes her mother happy, but is there as a means for her to cope from a recent divorce. Valentine noticed that “There followed a difficult period, as [her mom] ran through her divorce settlement. She polished her wedding silver to have it appraised, but came home from the jeweler’s crying, unwilling to sell it. She was happy in the mornings after Carlo stayed, but whatever he did wore off, and she was miserable again” (Meloy 153). Eventually, the relationship could no longer work with a superficial foundation supporting it. Carlo vandalized her home in spite of her. Her mother had only been in the relationship with Carlo to replace what she had lost with Valentine’s father; her incapability to rely on herself has taken even more from her. Fulfilling what we want guarantees the inevitable danger of heading down the path alone. The result is magnified by the intentions of our actions; therefore, their superficial relationship brought nothing positive for their memories to reflect on.
In the story Nine, the worst choice of both ways is chosen when Valentine’s mom seeks solace by substituting another relationship to take place of the one she lost. Her decision to accept a man for the wrong reasons calculated the result of him destroying even more parts of her life. We choose to ignore logic and follow the emotions in our hearts, we become us more vulnerable. Like Nine, we want our emotions to be satisfied both ways: by other people supplying our happiness, while they return the same emotions. The logical frame of mind is to be complacent with ourselves before we confide in the support of people. Nothing goes according to plan; what comes with temptation is eventual regret. We are shown just how much joy can envelope our lives and be taken away in an instant. The lesson portrayed in Nine is that we cannot rely on people to be there when we need them; in order to fulfill yourself, you must be confident within yourself; because when things start going wrong, you just have yourself to comfort. Our plans to rely on other people are also the demise of our desires.
The human frailty of the worst of both ways in the story Two-Step is how the characters irrevocably ruin the lives of another by selfishly taking what they want. In the story, a woman is confiding in her friend about the possibility of her husband having an affair. As Alice vents about her dismay, her friend Naomi is comparing Alice’s marriage to the one she just had just ended. Naomi reflects on her decision to be with Alice’s husband without even questioning whether he’ll follow through. She has given up everything to be with Alice’s husband, and is yet sitting in Alice’s kitchen, listening to her concern that she’s pregnant. Of the both ways Naomi is offered, she chooses to acquiesce to her selfish emotions and expect it to work out in her favor. Considering the way Naomi didn’t care or begin to think about Alice’s feelings, she is foolish to think her outcome will be what she wants. As Meloy portrays at the end of the story, choosing the worst of both ways to get what she wants will result in her gaining nothing. Naomi ruined her own marriage and is ruining her friend’s marriage without remorse, in expectation of him to follow through; she is dependent on his dismissal of his own wife to be with her. As the husband comes into the kitchen, she expects him to light up in her presence; instead, he takes his wife in his arms and dances with her in front of Naomi: “He would come looking for her soon, to tell her she was all that mattered; that seemed very clear. He wasn’t going to dance with Alice all night… She opened the unlocked passenger door and got inside, where it was still warm and smelled of him, and she rolled the seat back as far as it would go, to sleep and wait” (Meloy 109). Naomi ended up with nothing, instead of getting what she wanted. When we are dependent on people with our immoral decisions, they won’t follow through like we expect them to.
All three stories are similar in their portrayal of human emotions: Travis, B. evokes how desire blinds our judgment in making rational decisions; and instead provokes acting on impulse to fulfill our internal desires. Nine portrays the way we forfeit ourselves to our emotions and rely on people to make us happy, which leaves us emptier of what we had before. The story teaches that we can’t trust people with the responsibility of tending to our feelings because they eventually stop following through. Two-Step is the embodiment of the temptation we all experience; where we give up everything to chance and expect things to go according to our plans.
Travis, B., Nine, and, Two-Step are all stories of consequences to our actions; where we act on emotions of our hearts and turn away from our minds that are rationally putting forth the probable outcome in front of our eyes. Maile Meloy’s portrayal of “Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It”, is legitimate in its rendering of the human desire to give in to temptation. The lesson her book reveals is that following the temptation in our hearts reveals no satisfaction for us in the end. It’s best to choose the right way; otherwise, we’ll lose more than what we had before.
Meloy, Maile. Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009. Print.