Book review: A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends by Stacy Bierlein

Two of five stars

In this collection of short stories, Stacy Bierlein examines women’s relationships to their men, their children, their parents, each other, and the world at large. Her tales are sexually graphic, funny, philosophical, poignant, and — to me — somewhat annoying.

Maybe it’s modern short fiction that bothers me. A piece in which a character muses about the things he sees while waiting at the bus stop, and then ends when the character gets on the bus is a writing exercise, not a short story. Not that this particular collection contains that exact scenario, but it’s a “for instance”. Where’s the growth of the character in such a piece? Ms. Bierlein’s collection contains several such writing exercises — beautifully done, with lovely words and startling imagery, but not meeting my idea of what a short story should be: something with a beginning, a middle, an end; situation, conflict, resolution.

This is what happens when one is raised on Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and Ray Bradbury: expectation of a certain rigidity of form. Maybe one day I will let go of those expectations and be a little more flexible. Until then, I think I’ll stick with novel length fiction. Or short stories by the above-mentioned authors.

Many thanks to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this collection.

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