A couple months ago, I read Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter and fell in love with it. It was (and still is) easily my favorite book I’ve read this year. It was her first novel, though, so unfortunately I’m going to have to wait a while before I can read another by her.
However, she’s published a couple books containing short stories she’s written. And I’m always up for more short story collections. So today I’m going to talk a little about one of those collections, Don’t Kiss Me.
Unfortunately, it’s always a little difficult to talk about short stories because they’re, well, short. It’s hard to talk about them without giving away the entire plot. They’re like songs: better off just experiencing them first and then listening to someone talk about them. But I’ll try.
Most of the short stories in Don’t Kiss Me are only a few pages. A good deal of them feel like flash fiction, so if you’re interested in reading but don’t have a lot of time, Don’t Kiss Me is good for short, digestible bursts.
Like Ugly Girls, Don’t Kiss Me shows us many broken people and snippets of their lives we can relate to. Whether or not you’ve hit the same exact experiences her characters have, I think we can all at least see parts of our past (or current) unsuccessful relationships, abandoned dreams, disappointment in others, or disgust with ourselves in these stories.
As much as I loved Ugly Girls, I can understand why some people were disappointed with it as a novel. The setup feels more appropriate for short stories, and I think more people would end up appreciating Lindsay Hunter with her short stories in Don’t Kiss Me than with Ugly Girls. Which is unfortunate, because again, I loved Ugly Girls. But whatever.
Many of the stories in Don’t Kiss Me feature women of varying ages, but most fall either in their teens or what I’m assuming is the late thirties/early forties range. But there are also stories about men (one in particular about an old man mourning the death of his wife kind of got to me), and regardless of gender I don’t feel like these stories specifically cater to men or women, just people that can relate to messes they find themselves in throughout life. Which, of course, I appreciate.
I don’t want to give too much away about the stories, but I do want to mention some of my favorites. “Brenda’s Kid” was about a mother that stops by her son’s house before work to help with some chores that he should be doing on his own. The story does a great job showing when a parent should let go and how lazy and selfish some kids can be if you cater to their every whim. “Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula” tells us three events regarding isolation and bad relationships about the titular character that make us empathize with loneliness. “Leta’s Mummy” draws a parallel between the behaviors of the narrator’s friend’s undead mummy that lives under her house and the narrator’s own mother.
“You and Your Cats” is a lonely cat lady story, but it still holds up for me because of small comments throughout the piece that show the narrator’s frustration with loneliness. “My Boyfriend Del” is an interesting piece about a woman of an unspecified age (at the very least old enough to drive) who has fallen in love with a little kid that treats her like shit. “Candles,” despite being written in all caps, read like a collection of entries in a notebook or even in a Twitter feed describing an almost stalker-like obsession a woman has with the manager of a candle shop. And finally, “Me and Gin” shows a possible unrequited love, possible toxic friendship between two kids.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories and am very glad to add another one to my collection, although I think I still enjoyed Ugly Girls just a tiny bit more. Maybe it’s because I’ve already formed some sort of nostalgia for it by being genuinely surprised at how much I loved a new author, especially during a weak reading year. But there were also some writing-related issues I had with some of the stories in Don’t Kiss Me. Many of the characters would use a lot of slang or slurred talking, which itself isn’t a bad thing. But there were times it was used a bit much or too extensively, and it admittedly became distracting. And while I enjoyed most of the stories, there were a few that just didn’t strike a chord with me. One in particular took up almost thirty pages and was told by multiple POVs, but with each page separated into columns for two characters. It was visually distracting and honestly pretty confusing; I read it three times and still had difficulty taking much away from it. I appreciate the experimental layout, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
But it’s natural for a few stories to not stick out in a short story collection. As a whole, I really enjoyed Don’t Kiss Me and am excited to read more of Lindsay Hunter’s work. I definitely recommend finding yourself a copy to read, especially if you’re into short stories.
Thanks for reading and I hope you’re having a great week! 🙂
Info for my edition of Don’t Kiss Me:
Published 2013 by FSG Originals
Paperback, 175 pages