It’s a new year and we’re posting regularly now people (and yes I do mean for more than 1 month this time). I mentioned in my tbr for January, that I would write a review for Fresh Complaint and I am delivering (for once).
Let’s be honest we already knew I was going to like this book. If I haven’t already said it enough, I really love Jeffrey Eugenides. However, I did not think I was going to like this book THIS much. I always either love or hate short story compilations, because an author either can get their point across in twenty some pages or they can’t. Eugenides definitely can. His ability to make a reader care so deeply about a character that they’ve known for such a short time is amazing.
Another thing I really liked about this book was how the stories were all from different points of Eugenides career, but still managed to connect with each other to make a cohesive collection. The thing that ties all these stories together is Eugenides tactic of making the ordinary extraordinary. As with his novels, each short story takes a situation that one would regularly consider average and dives into the depths of emotion that make that situation unique and almost unbearably human.
My favorite story from the collection was “Great Experiment.” Originally published in the New Yorker in 2008, the story follows an editor at a independent publishing company, who through the coercion of a coworker and his own financial struggles, turns to a life of embezzlement and fraud. Not only is the story line captivating but the characters are also so multi-dimensional. You don’t feel like you’re reading about a criminal, you feel like you’re reading about a person who was just pushed a little too far by America’s economic system. I’ll keep this review spoiler free- but the ending of this story makes your stomach twist.
There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like in this collection but my other favorites included, “Complainers,” and “Find The Bad Guy.” “Capricious Gardens,” stood out to me as well because of how eloquently multiple perspectives were given, in such a short story. One of my favorite lines comes at the end of “Complainers,” when Cathy is describing advice she was given by a friend: “Pay no attention to the terrors that visit you in the night. The psyche is at its lowest ebb then, unable to defend itself. The desolation that envelops you feels like truth, but isn’t. It’s just mental fatigue masquerading as insight.” This quote has brought me a lot of comfort this month.
Of course this review wouldn’t be complete without discussing the title story “Fresh Complaint.” this story revolves around a girl who stages a “rape” in order to get out of an arranged marriage. From the get go I was very nervous and thought this story was going to ruin the book for me. Obviously, with so many women in the real world who are finally able to come forward with their experiences, the last thing we need is a story justifying why women’s experiences could be fake. This story however is not that. It is a heart wrenching story about people stuck in situations life has forced upon them, and how you get yourself out of the holes you’ve dug yourself into. The woman is never portrayed as a villain in this story, she is portrayed as a good person who believes she has no choice, likewise the man in the story is never portrayed as a victim, he is a very flawed character who understands that he put himself in his situation. There’s no “he said she said” it’s just a story about two people who both realize through this experience that they need to be better people. It was very tastefully done, and wrapped up all the themes of the stories in one, giving the book great closure.
Overall I gave this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads, which makes me excited to see what other great reads I find in 2019. Make sure to add me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading and feel free to tell me what you’re reading this month!