Saturday, November 21, 2009 By: Suzanne

Short Stories: The Guy Not Taken

Short Story Saturdays

I listened to the audio version of the The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner in my car last week. Honestly, I didn't realize it was short stories until I popped it in my cd player and heard the beginning: "The Guy Not Taken, a collection of short stories by Jennifer Weiner" (or something to that affect). Huh, I thought, how did I not realize that when I bought it. Maybe because I just saw a cheap audio book and since cheap ones are hard to find I just grabbed it!

I actually enjoyed these stories(for the most part). I think Weiner may be a better writer of short stories than full novels. The stories are complete and you're left feeling fulfilled but you don't feel like she cheated at the end to get the girl with the guy and make a happily ever after as I usually feel after listening (because I've never read one) to one of her novels . I'm not sure what the process is when short stories are placed together in a book to decide which comes first but I'm not sure the order in this case does Weiner any favors for 2 reasons: 1. The first three stories are actually all about the same character at different times in her life and could have, with a little more flushing, been a full length novel. 2. They are not even close to the best stories in the book. The main character/narrator is not all that interesting either. I get very annoyed by characters that are what I see as "weak." I mean girls who never tell their mothers to back off or let the man treat them like shit just because they want a boyfriend. This is the narrator and for some reason a common character trait of girls in these chick-lit novels. I would actually like to hear the same stories told from her sister Nikki's point of view. Now THAT would make a great novel. Here's an example of Nikki from the story Travels with Nikki

My sister's earliest childhood memories were of torture. She talked frequently, nostalgically, about the happy days of her youth when she'd give John his bath and pour alternating pitchers of hot and cold water over his back. Never hot enough to burn him, just hot enough to make him extremely uncomfortable.

Swim, the story following this trilogy, is one of her better stories and why I think Weiner is a talented writer, even if I don't normally like the genre she writes. It's the story of a Hollywood screen writer learning to be comfortable with who she is and her place in the world. It does not have a happily ever after ending but I felt hopeful at the end even so and felt it was good in the way a short story should be, a complete story with good ending that doesn't leave you feeling as if it was simply the outlines of her next novel.

Good Men is the only story in this collection told from a man's point of view and on the audio is voiced by a man. This was a little jarring. Maybe when you're reading it's not so strange to go from 4 stories told by a woman to 1 told by a man but when you're listening and you have a certain voice in your head, it's very distracting. Also, I wasn't impressed with the story itself. A bunch of boys out on the town during a bachelor's party trying to figure out why anyone gets married and then they decided the problem in the narrator's relationship is the dog. The dog is evil so they plan to go kidnap it. Huh?

Buyer's Market is actually a great story but I didn't think so at first. I didn't like Jess, the narrator, for the simple reason that she's selling her beloved NYC apartment just so she can get the attention of her realtor. It's obvious to everyone but Jess that this down-on-his-luck realtor is playing her so her can get the commission on her apartment ("a weak character again" is what I thought). I ended up liking the story as it has one of those rare moments when you can see the change in a character. The moment when you get to see how her whole life could have been very different if she had not had this moment. It kind of reminds me of Sliding Doors in that way, a movie I love.

The Guy Not Taken is a new look at a common theme both in movies and books: what would my life be like if I had done this ONE thing different. Our narrator is Marlie and one night while at home with her baby she stumbles onto her ex-boyfriend's wedding registry. On a lark she logs in as him, knowing his passwords are always the same, and changes the name of the bride to her own. The next moment the computer shuts down and she is not able to change it back. She wakes up the next day with no baby, in her old apartment, next to her ex and getting ready for their engagement party...
It was interesting if cliche. Though I thought it didn't feel complete at the end.

The Mother's Hour was, for me, the best story in this book. Unfortunately, being an "abridgement" there were three stories from the book not in this audio version so I can't say that for sure but it was well written and a beautiful story about the friendship between two very different women, Alice and Victoria, and their children that develops when they both go to a Mother's Hour group. The group sounds like a cross between baby's playtime and group counseling session for moms. Not sure exactly what kind of group it was supposed to be but the defining moment for the group comes when one of the mother's wrongly reports Victoria for child abuse.

Check this out. You will not be disappointed.