Friday, March 12, 2010

Book Review: "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower

I try not to fall prey to hype, I really do. But when you see a book makes numerous year-end "best of" lists, you can't help but expect the book to be fantastic. And truthfully, nearly 95 percent of the time when I read a book on a "best-of" list of someone I respect, I usually agree.

Wells Tower's short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, fell a bit short of its hype, in my opinion. Family and relationships—in all their glorious dysfunction—are the focus of this story collection, which was recognized by the New York Times and Amazon as one of 2009's best books. Yet while I found each of Tower's stories intriguing and readable, I kept waiting for something more, something to unleash and amaze me.

The characters in Tower's stories are all struggling with something, whether it's being banished to a rundown house after infidelity is discovered, a father suffering from dementia, having to drive your ex-wife's lover home from an ashram or even just teenage angst. Nearly all of the issues are relatable and the characters are appealing. But something is missing in every story. It's like he revved up the motor of every story and instead of a big finish, each one ended with a whimper. So instead of fully enjoying each story, I wondered what could have been. Bummer.

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