Even if I wasn't already a fan of Maile Meloy's writing, I would have read Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It for the title alone. In the collection's penultimate story, a conflicted husband reflects on a poem by A.R. Ammons ("One can't/have it/both ways/and both/ways is/the only/way I/want it"). He lies curled up with his wife of three decades, comforted by her intelligence and aging beauty, while he contemplates leaving her for the recently-teenaged girl who taught their now-grown children how to swim: "The force with which he wanted it both ways made him grit his teeth. What kind of fool wanted it only one way?" Each of the eleven stories poses this same question, as affairs, marriages, and childhoods teeter on the edge of decision: go or stay, live it up or keep on living. None of the characters are terribly likeable, but their interior conflicts make us feel for them, even as we ...
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