Book Review: “The Middle Ground” by Jeff Ewing

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s a short story collection entitled “The Middle Ground” by Jeff Ewing! I was lucky to get a free copy from Into The Void prior to the official publication day (February 19th of this year, if you’re wondering) in exchange for an honest review! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

“The middle ground is a place we’ve all crossed, the halfway point between who you are and who you want to be. In Jeff Ewing’s collection of stories, his diversely American characters call it home. From a story of a man living in the shadow of an abandoned missile silo that may hold the answer to a mystery of vanished children, to one of a small-town beauty tentatively courting stardom, Ewing’s sparse, musical prose illuminates lives lived in that space between fear and courage, hope and regret, life and death. Fog remembers, revenge beckons, and loneliness gives birth to fragile beauty—while in the distance the future gleams on a car hood, daring bold hands to seize it.”

I thought that overall, most of this collection lacked an emotional punch to their stories. Granted, not all of these stories necessarily need an emotional punch to be ultimately enjoyable, but save for short stories such as “Lake Mary Jane” and “The New Canaan Village for Epileptics” as well as a few others in this collection, most of them never really made me just stop and think about the situations in the stories or make me feel anything about the characters and their situations. However, I did like the writing style of some of the stories, especially from “Dick Fleming is Lost” where we have this quote:

“Its belly looked caved-in, its ribs like a corset cinched tight and hurriedly draped in dun hide. When [the coyote] spotted him, it lurched to one side as if kicked. It backed away over the brow of the hill, never taking its eyes off of him.” (‘Dick Fleming is Lost’)

There is also this quote I rather liked:

“‘She suspected he never really got over the slap, that it was the gestating act of the paperwork sitting right now inside the house waiting for her signature.” (‘Masterpiece’)

Another thing I enjoy about the writing style of the stories is that the points of view for each story are not all one type of point of view. For instance, one short story might be first-person, while another is in third-person, and so on. The variety it added to the collection overall made it more fun to read. However, despite the variety of points of view depending on which story you read, I felt that I as a reader could not connect well with the characters and their situations in each of the stories.

I felt like a lot of the short stories, if not all of them, lacked closure. I understand that not all short stories need to have a ‘closure’ or feeling of closure to their stories. However, the fact that all of them lacked closure or some kind of sense of conclusion made all the stories, in short, feel quite lacking in that aspect.

Overall, I’m rating this collection 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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