Half as Happy

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we're pleased to present a review for Half as Happy, a new collection of short stories by Gregory Spatz.. Make sure to check out the rest of the tour stops for more reviews, and keep scrolling down to enter to win a copy of this book for yourself!

By Gregory Spatz
Published on April 16th 2013
Published by Engine Books
Source: ARC for blog tour
A grieving couple rents a desperate landlord's house in an effort to recover lost intimacy. Twins are irrevocably separated by events both beyond and within their control. A nighttime prank and its gruesome aftermath forge human connections no one could have anticipated.

The eight stories in Half as Happy reveal with startling clarity their characters' secrets, losses, and desires. Each with the depth of a novel, these insightful portraits of the darkness and light within us reverberate long after they've ended, like beautiful and disturbing dreams.
Author Gregory Spatz has assembled a collection of dense, intricate short stories in Half as Happy.  While your average short story just gives you a sketch of who the characters are, or maybe feels like it could be part of a large work, Spatz's stories feel fully realized.  His writing style is rich with detail and flows in an almost stream-of-consciousness sort of way, which can get a bit overwhelming at times, but which serves the narrative voice of the story very welll.

While some of the characters aren't even given names, you still feel like you wind up knowing them, warts and all.  Even when you get little backstory on the characters, you feel like you know what makes them tick -- at least, as well as the characters themselves know, which oftentimes isn't that well.  The characters are not often ones who have a great deal of self awareness, and if they do, that doesn't mean they understand the other people in their lives any better.

The people Spatz writes about are not exactly people in peak condition.  They are dysfunctional, desperate, delusional.  They are cheaters and liars, they are seeing their relationships crumble before their eyes.  They are grief-stricken or ill or on the cusp of divorcing.  Not one story focuses on people who really have their act together.  A number of the stories felt far too close to home for me sometimes: the lonely soon-to-be ex-spouses, each looking on at the other post-break-up with a degree of desire for the life the other now has; the young couple moving into a new home to try to recapture a connection that they've lost.  The characters may be lost and dysfunctional, but they are very, deeply human.

All of the stories save one ("The Bowmaker's Cats") are set in a realistic, fairly straight-forward contemporary world.  "The Bowmaker's Cats" has a touch of magical realism about it as you find yourself wonder what, exactly, happened, what does it all mean, when you get to the end.  The rest of the stories show you snippets of lives, relationships gone wrong, things taken too far.  It's a fascinating look at less-than-perfect people, many of whom you still find yourself rooting for anyway.

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win Half as Happy to experience Spatz's detailed, sometimes disorienting, worlds for yourself.  Open to anyone who can receive mail at an address in the US.  Due to some sexual situations in the book, please enter only if you are 17 or older.

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