Summary and book reviews of Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller

Always Happy Hour

Stories

by Mary Miller

Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jan 2017, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley

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About this Book

Book Summary

Combining hard-edged prose and savage Southern charm, Mary Miller showcases biting contemporary talent at its best. In The Last Days of California, she now reaches new heights with this collection of shockingly relatable, ill-fated love stories.

Acerbic and ruefully funny, Always Happy Hour weaves tales of young women--deeply flawed and intensely real - who struggle to get out of their own way. They love to drink and have sex; they make bad decisions with men who either love them too much or too little; and they haunt a Southern terrain of gas stations, public pools, and dive bars. Though each character shoulders the weight of her own baggage - whether it's a string of horrible exes, a boyfriend with an annoying child, or an inability to be genuinely happy for a best friend - they are united in their unrelenting suspicion that they deserve better.

These women seek understanding in the most unlikely places: a dilapidated foster home where love is a liability in "Big Bad Love," a trailer park littered with a string of bad decisions in "Uphill," and the unfamiliar corners of a dream home purchased with the winnings of a bitter divorce settlement in "Charts." Taking a microscope to delicate patterns of love and intimacy, Miller evokes the reticent love among the misunderstood, the gritty comfort in bad habits that can't be broken, and the beat-by-beat minutiae of fated relationships.

Like an evening of drinking, Always Happy Hour is a comforting burn, warm and intoxicating in its brutal honesty. In an unforgettable style that distinguishes her within her generation, Miller once again captures womanhood in "a raw…and heartbreaking way" (Los Angeles Review of Books) and solidifies her essential role in American fiction.

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1.
INSTRUCTIONS

He leaves her a series of drawings on a sheet of typing paper. It must have taken him a long time—he probably got off to a late start. She only wanted to know the code to the laundry room, where his mailbox key is.

She lies in bed with his cats, studying it. At the top, there is a banner like the kind waving behind an airplane, advertising two-for-one drink specials at the beach: In the event of my unlikely death, and underneath it a headstone: Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt. There's a single flower next to the headstone, a few wisps of grass. There are boxes labeled GATOS, COFFEE, PAR AVION, BASURA, and one with nothing but a question mark. In the box labeled PAR AVION, he tells her that the mail key is hanging next to the brass knuckles. The GATOS section takes up most of the left side. There's a diagram of a litter box showing how the pee clumps and advising her to scoop at least twice a day so the cats "don't get weird."...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Miller’s collection is sixteen interpretations of millennial feminism, laced with drugs and depression, sex and anxiety. There’s a touch of Freud’s What does a woman want? driving each narrative, but conversely each protagonist claims control of her life in spite of her (sometimes) passivity. Miller’s writing can sparkle with insightfulness – "When you leave me, you won’t really be leaving me, I think, you’ll be leaving the girl you thought I was, who was kind of like me, but not."   (Reviewed by Gary Presley).

Full Review Members Only (596 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

Mesmerizing and exactly rendered, and Miller reminds us that for many people, life is defined by hardship, surprise, and just getting by…Excellent reading for fans of the genre.

Publishers Weekly

Starred and Boxed Review. Stellar…Miller's collection feels so true because it never glosses over the desperate or unflattering portrayals of its narrators, but neither does it exploit their faults. These stories acutely explore boyfriends, exes, poor choices, and the sad fallout of so many doomed relationships.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Readers will find themselves riveted…The 16 stories in this collection…feel both homey and exotic, limning lives at once familiar and distinctly their own. Like a two-for-one drink special or a boxful of beer, this bracingly strong collection may prove intoxicating.

Author Blurb Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
The stories in Mary Miller's Always Happy Hour are full of wit, bite, and the boundless intelligence of their author. This book is further evidence for what I felt after reading her brilliant debut novel, The Last Days of California, that Mary Miller is an astonishingly gifted writer. Her next one can't come soon enough.

Author Blurb Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife
Reading Always Happy Hour is like drinking an Old Fashioned. It's strong with a sweet burn, and after each taste you immediately want more. Reminiscent of Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness, Mary Miller writes well about sex, drugs and white bikinis.

Author Blurb Daniel Handler, author of We Are Pirates and Why We Broke Up
I fell into this book like it was a night of drinking. I sipped, I laughed, I had some more, I got lonely, I danced a little, I downed the rest, I wanted to cry, I stayed up late closing it out and I'm a wreck and I regret nothing.

Author Blurb Willy Vlautin, author of The Free
Stories of self-defeat and loneliness, of bad decisions or maybe worse, the inability to make decisions. Stories of treading water?where you know you should move towards shore but instead you let yourself drift farther out. Big World introduced us to the power of Mary Miller's short stories, and Always Happy Hour solidifies her as a major voice in Southern Literature.

Author Blurb Amelia Gray, author of Isadora and Gunshot
Each of these stories has its own pulse. For anyone who's ever looked for love in all the wrong places, this shoebox full of beating hearts is for you.

Author Blurb Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
I adore Mary Miller's stories and you will too. Read this book and then read her others. Like, now.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

A Slew of Southern Writers

Joseph Rusling Meeker, Landscape (Bayou)Mary Miller's Always Happy Hour is set in the south, but many will see it as something other than true southern fiction. The protagonists are too internalized, too walled off from the southerness – the land, the people, the ethos of pride, racial discord, and defeat – that is the beating heart of most great southern fiction; that is to say the forces that drive everything from regional pride to politics to art. More typical southern writers touch on some if not all of those forces, and create such a palpable sense of place that their works become universal.

As I Lay DyingMississippian William Faulkner, a Nobel Prize winner, is one such writer. He might well have written his fiction in the blood of his ancestors. However, Faulkner was ...

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