Filled with sharp dialogue, engaging characters, and offbeat detail, the twelve stories collected in The Melancholy of Departure describe an outsider’s world of longing, disillusion, and survival, where hope is found in unexpected places and understanding comes from unlikely sources. As the title of the collection suggests, many of the stories deal with loss or failed relationships. Fully aware of the dangers that await us all―loneliness, commitment, heartbreak, love―the men and women in this collection call out to us from the fringes of society; they are prophets whose messages fall on uninterested ears.
First, a rundown of the stories:
1. "Let Me Tell You How I Met My First Husband, The Clown" -- A driven, goal-oriented woman falls in love with a clown (that's not a knock on his character, he's literally a professional clown).
2. "Stanley" -- Told in 2nd person POV (as in "you"), where the reader is asked to imagine themselves on a blind date who just seems too perfect, you expect something to be majorly wrong with him. The night turns into a regrettable one night stand.
3. "Voici! Henri" -- A glimpse into a moment in the life of a gay couple, Henri's boyfriend assumes Henri is about to dump him.
4. "Rita & Maxine" -- A tense working relationship between struggling theater director Rita and Maxine, an established stage actress who has recently come back home to the United States.
When she was in high school, Rita had been the only girl on the lighting and sound crew. That's how she got her start in the theater. She'd been too tall and her face too broken out to be an actress. Later, she became the assistant director because she liked being close to the source of power, in this case Mr. Harris the drama teacher, and she found that she liked telling people what to do.
>> except for the being tall in HS bit, this eerily echoed my own
5. "Bettina In Love" -- a dancer / choreographer is struggling with having intense feelings for a male dancer, who may possibly be homosexual
6. "For If He Left Robert" -- a gay man contemplates leaving his lover while said lover sleeps
7. "Hurley" -- Ohhh, Hurley is a weird, weird dude. The story opens with him taking a suitcase into a porn shop, telling the staff that there's a bomb inside the suitcase. They offer him whatever he wants if he just doesn't detonate the bomb. Hurley contemplates using same tactic at grocery store. In between the two establishments, he has some bizarre run-ins with people he meets on the street. In the evenings, he likes to crash on his cot @ the YMCA, work on his scrapbook of newspaper articles of the most gruesome crimes and tragedies.
8. "What Do You Mean What Am I Doing?" -- one of my favorites in the collection, a hilarious first person narrative of someone snapping at someone else over this other person continually breaking the narrator's concentration.
9. "Ralph & Larry" -- The story of a friendship between a partially deaf, BDSM-lovin' homosexual and an asexual man struggling with binge eating disorder
10. "Beauty and the Beast" -- A unique, slightly bizarre take on the classic fairytale. Here, DePew strips the Beast of most of the human-like qualities he's typically given while also placing Belle & Beast in a sort of dystopian, futuristic setting around the castle. A little odd at first but there was something to it I ended up really liking.
11. "Florence Wease" -- A simple story regarding the passage of time over the course of the lives of two spinster sisters; starts in early 20th century moving over mid-late century.
12. "At Home With The Pelletiers" -- Teen Howard Pelletier's older brother Walter has just come home from Vietnam. Howard instantly sees that the brother he gets back is not the same one who left, Howard is trying to make the best of his brother's behavioral changes but is undoubtedly uneasy at times, unsure of how to move around Walter without setting him off.
Overall thoughts: As is often the case with short story collections, some of these I really loved, some were more just meh, some really had me scratching my head and deciding nope, not my thing. In general though, I like the variation of the stories and I do like DePew's writing style here, haven't read anything by him previously. A quick read of a collection that you can easily take a story or two at a time when you just need one of those brief breather moments during the otherwise hectic rush of the daily grind. I would say this would be a good little intro to people just wanting to dip their toes into short story fiction, as there's just enough quirkiness here to keep things interesting but it's not so out there that people new to the genre would be scared off.