A debut collection of clever, deftly written stories, by an author
who's appeared in such places as the "Kenyon Review", "North
American Review", and the "Missouri Review". The 14 tales exhibit a
refreshing variety of types-male and female, young and old,
beautiful and ugly-but Hamel's favorite is the modest 30-something
who realizes that his or her view of the world remains as confused
as it was in childhood. In "The Nemesis," a shy white-collar worker
finds herself drawn to the office's resident "asshole," having
daily lunches with him for reasons she can't explain. "Go" presents
a 35-year-old heroine whose mother depends on kitsch to liven up
their relationship, and the two of them jokingly (but eerily) treat
an inflatable doll modeled on Munch's "The Scream" as if it were a
baby. The title character of "Myra" is an older woman who, trying
to prevent future women from being named Myra, brings two other
elderly Myras into her life. Hamel delights in shrewd
understatement, and her resolutions are often subtle and
mysterious. In simple but artful language, she presents a wealth of
witty observations on her characters. In "The Years in Review," a
married couple "disdained divorce as unimaginative and
overidealistic-tacky American, like Lotto or hair transplants." The
heroine of "The Nemesis" understands that her father "seemed to
enjoy sailing, but what he really enjoyed was humiliating
pretenders to the nautical lifestyle." In "Toys," a woman thinks of
her husband, "He was more or less the same man she'd met ten years
before in a porta-potty line outside a Metallica concert." But
comic observation isn't the only show here; Hamel's characters are
often wounded, sometimes stranded, and she invokes powerful
sympathy for them. Her subtly comic tone recalls Lorrie Moore,
who's also shown that she can make exceptional stories from
middling ideas. There's some inconsistency here-the opening tale in
particular seems subpar-but, still, this is an auspicious beginning
for a very talented writer. (Kirkus Reviews)
There's one thing I know: Lies hold people together. So says the
narrator of the title story, a furniture refinisher who prides
herself on her talent for sidestepping the facts. If only she
weren't continually frustrated by her truth-telling older sister.
If only the past would keep its distance. In My Favorite Lies, Ruth
Hamel uses a unique blend of humor, irony, and telling detail to
explore the lies people tell each other - not just the fibs,
prevarications, and exaggerations, but the deceptions that spring
from deliberate silence. These stories examine the lies we tell
ourselves as we struggle to bridge the gap between who we are and
who we'd rather be. One of the most striking characteristics of
Hamel's work is the masterful economy of language that brings to
life her characters and their situations within a few sentences of
any story's opening. Some of these characters have reached
adulthood with unhealed emotional wounds from childhood and are in
the process of coming to terms with their parents or siblings.
Others are detached from the social life around them and are
finding temporary solace with a partner who is similarly alienated.
We observe their stumbling efforts to resolve these lingering
conflicts. Inevitably these stories confront the nature of love in
its various guises. One character is puzzled by her mother's
fidelity to her hypocritical father, but explains it with words
that apply to her own awkward relationships: "Because somehow,
against all the evidence to the contrary, you see something to
love. And somehow it's enough." Whether they're trying to escape
their pasts, their families, or their own worst impulses, the
characters in Hamel's stories make the same discovery: The truth
will always become apparent.
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