Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mr. Tall: a Novella and Stories by Tony Earley

Mr. Tall: a Novella and Stories by Tony Earley


Author: Tony Earley
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: August 26th 2014 
Page Amount: 256 Pages
Price: $25.00 Hardcover
ISBN:0316246123 (ISBN13: 9780316246125)
Learn More About the Author Here!

"Two decades after his debut collection Here We Are in Paradise heralded Tony Earley as one of the most accomplished writers of his generation, the rueful, bittersweet, and riotous stories of Mr. Tall reestablish him as a mythmaker and tale spinner of the first rank. These stories introduce us not only to ordinary people seeking to live extraordinary lives, but to the skunk ape (a southern variant of Bigfoot), the ghost of Jesse James, and a bone-tired Jack the Giant Killer. Whether it's Appalachia, Nashville, the Carolina Coast, or a make-believe land of talking dogs, each world Earley creates is indelible." (Goodreads Description)

Mr. Tall is a collection of stories, about different characters, in different worlds, and in different situations. Characters are introduced, but they do not always appear in the other stories or seem to have a connection with any of the other stories in this collection.  For this reason, I find it difficult to review a novel like this. 

(Note: There are adult situations in this novel, and this is likely not a Young Adult or Teen read.)

Overall, there were several stories that I loved and other stories that I did not like. I feel the best way to explain this is by separating the review into the different stories. I also want to note, I do not want to say too much about the synopsis of each story, because of the length of them, I am afraid that I would spoil the story!

Haunted Castles of the Barrier Islands

This story follows Darryl, Cheryl and their daughter Misti. The story mainly focuses on Darryl and Cheryl's trip to visit their daughter at University. Throughout the story, the reader also sees the couple's past, and what might have lead to their relationship struggles. 

This was one of the stories that I liked to read, but I did not love. The structure of the sentences was a little bit hard to follow. Here is an example of what the sentences look like. (These sentences might not be the same in the finished copy - I will update them if they are not similar) 

"Cheryl had a baby. She picked the name Misti Renee and stuffed the baby into a sling and went back to work."

In some of the circumstances in this story, this structure of writing was appropriate. In other points of the story, I did not like how the sentences were put together. In these sections, the sentences were either too short (the first sentence of the quote above) or plain confusing. 

Also, I felt like I did not connect with the characters in this story as much as I wanted to. I know that the story focused on Darryl and Cheryl, but I just did not feel like I connected with Cheryl. I realize that some of this lack of connection is intentional, as the story focuses on Darryl and his thoughts, but I wanted more of a connection with her. 

Also, I would like to mention that there is a part in this story that is a little inappropriate. I skipped over this part of the story, but I still understood the majority of the story. 

Mr. Tall

This is one of the stories that I read and loved. 

This story follows Plutina and Charlie, a newly wed couple that are moving to "the middle of no-where". Plutina has several doubts about their marriage, most of them being that her father, nor her sister approve of the marriage. Plutina also feels bad about her marriage because her mother needs around the clock care, and she worries that without her presence, her mother will not get the care that she needs. But then, Plutina learns about her mysterious neighbor, Mr. Tall, and will do just about anything to get to know him. 

I really liked this story because the reader is able to experience the perspective of Plutina. I felt like I could really understand Plutina's thoughts and reasoning. Mr. Earley does a great job of convincing the reader to support Plutina's side of the story. 

I also really loved the character of Mr. Tall. Even though this story is very short, there is a lot of depth and substance to the Mr. Tall character. I felt like I really wanted to get to know Mr. Tall, even after all of the crazy rumors that are stated in the story. Mr. Tall is a character that has so much to him, and the fact that the reader only has a short amount of time to acknowledge this makes his character that much deeper. 

I also want to make a note that this story also has a huge inappropriate part. I skipped over about four pages. My review will obviously not cover these pages. 

The Cryptozoologist

This story follows Rose, sadly, a widow who had just lost her husband, Fieldin. Rose's neighbors, Charlie and Plutina, help her to overcome her grief by keeping her busy and giving her faces to talk to. Thanks to her neighbors, Rose is able to discover more about herself, and her husbands intention. 

I enjoyed this story, one of the reasons mainly being that Mr. Earley was able to connect the two characters from the previous story into this one. I really enjoyed being able to see two different stories, and how the intentions of both Plutina and Rose matched, and how they were each unique. 

Another reason that I liked this story is because the reader is able to see a new side to Charlie, a character from the previous story. The character is able to see things in Charlie that Plutina did not describe, and this story also validates that Charlie was a good man at heart with good intentions. 

I was able to connect deeper with the characters in the previous story, as well as this one. I really felt like the blending of the previous story helped me to appreciate both stories, and the characters within them. 

Yard Art

This story follows Cammie, a recently divorced woman who hires a plumber named Arlen Jones. She hopes that hiring and talking to this plumber will help her get past her recent divorce. She tells Arlen about a sculpture that is "the reason why she does not have any furniture", and how the sculptor himself has works so rare that they are hard to come by. Arlen knows where another one of these sculptures is, and this sets the two off on an adventure. 

I liked this story, but I also had some parts of this story that I did not like. 

I thought that the character of Cammie was a little bit too romance obsessed. I understand that she had just been divorced from her song-writer husband, and I know that divorce has a toll on several people. I just felt like I did not understand her motives of inviting over the plumbers and the rationality that they may actually become romantically involved. 

I was very happy to see this mood change when Cammie figured out that Arlen may know where one of the undiscovered works of William Edmondson (the sculptor) may be. Cammie suddenly was more focused on the whereabouts of this sculpture, and even asked that Arlen stop calling her " Darlin' ". I thought that was a huge step for Cammie and also helped to make the story more interesting. 

I also loved that I was able to see more of Arlen than I was expecting to. Most of the stories in this novel had a very strong focus on one character in the story. While the story focused in Cammie, the small lines that Arlen had spoken gave me a huge insight into the kind of character that he is. He is just a person that does not want  to hurt anyone, but also wants to protect the people that he loves. Arlen is exactly the kind of character that I wish I saw more of today.

Have You Seen the Stolen Girl?

This is another one of the stories that I read and loved instantly. 

This story follows Mrs. Wilson, a woman who loves to tell the story of Jesse James to her trick-or-treaters every Halloween, but also a woman who lives just yards away from where a teenage girl had gone missing months ago. Mrs. Wilson relives that day constantly, but she does not remember seeing anything suspicious in the neighborhood. But she wants answers, and she will do anything to get them. 

I really enjoyed this story. I thought it was very interesting to be able to see into Mrs. Wilson, and her almost obsessive thoughts about the events that took place years ago. Throughout the story, the reader sees that Mrs. Wilson is paranoid that she did see something suspicious happen that day, or that she saw her on her doorstep trick-or-treating around Halloween. Most of all, the reader sees that Mrs. Wilson really just wishes the safe return of who she calls the "Stolen Girl".

The story also revisits some of her own pasts and struggles, which may have contributed to her paranoia but also what would be extreme protection of her and any children in the future that walk around the block. I thought it was very interesting to see the memories that Mrs. Wilson holds near to her, and how that contributes to her character. Most of her memories (that she still has) are doing more damage than good. 

I also loved to see the "delusion" that happens near  the end of the story, and how good intentions can be interpreted negatively. The past comes back to haunt Mrs. Wilson, and the turn of events is not what she expects. I won't say any more than that - you will have to read this story to figure it out. 

Just Married

This story was very interesting. 

The story follows several married couples, each experiencing their own troubles. I both liked and disliked the story. I loved the fact that even in two or three pages, I could get a sense of each of the character's personalities and motivations. I did not want this story to end! 

Also, the diversity in the characters and the unique parts that were present in each of them were amazing. It was also great to see the difference in motivation between these characters, and also the lack of understanding between them and other characters in the story. I specifically felt this way about the first "mini" story and the second "mini" story. I found the characters to be in them were just amazing. 

The one thing that I did not like about this story is that several parts of the story were confusing. I specifically felt this way about the last "mini" story, Honeymoon. I just did not understand what was going on, or who was saying what. I didn't like not being able to have closure with this part of the story.

Jack and the Mad Dog

This story was probably the most confusing, but I enjoyed this. 

This story follows a man named Jack, an arrogant, almost selfish man who is being hunted by a black dog. The dog speaks, and he wants to bite Jack to kill him. But, Jack doesn't want to end his story, as he is fortunate to be in one in the first place. For Jack to survive, he has to revisit his past and his fears, in one of the strangest way possible. But Jack does not get the news that he wanted. 

Once again, this story was probably the most confusing, and that was the downfall of the story. This story is also the longest story within the collection, and it did not help that I was confused about what was going on. I realize that part of this confusion was meant to be there, but I also realized that some of the confusion did not need to be there, or most of the concepts needed to be explained in a better manner.

Even after this, I felt my love for the story grow as the story went on. The different characters introduced all had some kind of a connection to Jack's past in his stories, and each of these characters were trying to lead him to the same place. I did like the fact that I could see this connection between the characters and Jack. 

The last ten pages or so of the story were the most entertaining pieces to read. After reading those sections, I never wanted the story to end. I also thought that this section of the story was the section that reveals the most about Jack's character and true colors. 

For the ending, I will not say much, except for that it is probably one of the greatest endings that I have read in these stories. My jaw dropped, and suddenly, certain events and objects in the story began to make sense. I never wanted to put the book down!

Overall, I really enjoyed these stories. Mr. Earley has a very unique voice and a very special talent when it comes to creating characters. Mr. Earley has a special way of bringing events and characters together. His stories make the readers think. In my opinion, those are the best kinds of stories. 

Rating: 3.5-4 stars out of 5 


  1. Hello ! I nominated you for The Liebster Award :)


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