It should come as no surprise to anyone that the books I chose to round out February are not about love, but rather unrequited love. In this instance, a young cowboy named Chet takes a winter job feeding cattle in Glendive, MT. He comes into town one evening and wanders into a night class taught by Beth Travis, just out of law school, who lives 9 hours away in Missoula. Chet falls for her of course, but nothing ever goes as planned, and well, I did say unrequited...
"Travis, B" is the first story in Maile Meloy's wonderful collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. There's more heartache in Meloy's stories than happy endings, but they're all well-crafted, beautiful, and real. I think you'd love her, truly.
Outside, he swung her up onto the horse again, and she put her arms around his waist. She seemed to fit to his body like a puzzle piece. He rode slowly back to the school parking lot, not wanting to let her go. Next to the yellow Datsun, he held her hand tight while she climbed down, and then he dismounted, too. She tugged her puffy coat where it had ridden up from sliding off the horse, and they stood looking at each other. --Maile Meloy
Both Ways was one of the New York Times' 10 best books in 2009, but I feel like Maile Meloy isn't really that well known. Her stories are quiet--the emotions at work subterranean and powerful. I recommend giving her a shot. And if you're already a fan of Maile Meloy, you might want to try story collections by Alice Munro, Stuart Dybek, or Ron Rash.
1. Gerald Mack, by Sam Abell for "The Cowboy in Winter," Smithsonian magazine; 2. Cow in winter, via Alt*House; 3. "On the way home from Limerick," by Kara Brodgesell; 4. Blanket, via Hollowed Hearts; 5. Building a fire; via Modern Day Hemingway; 6. Diner, via NEORETRO; 7. Work gloves, via At Lands End; 8. Wrangler shearling jacket, by Sorcery on Etsy; 9. Denim shirts, via Folk Mountains; 10. Girl in car, by Anna Wolf, via Wit & Delight; 11. Coffee, via Bungalow Classic; 12. Winter boots, via Ordinary Fairytale.