“Book Review: This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love.”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Real people, real pain, real triumphs and failures. This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. is a sincere short story collection about human imperfection.
If you’re looking for literary fiction that keeps you engaged, look no further than This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. This story collection offers a real and honest look at the way we try to improve our lives, how we fail or succeed, and how we continue to keep on going. The musical prose in each story not only guides us toward fulfilling narratives but toward an intimate understanding of important themes like hope, heartbreak, and mental health.
Author Jennifer Wortman does a lot of things right in This. This. This…, but perhaps her finest work is in the stories that depict depression and its nonstop impact on those who struggle with it. She tells stories of people we recognize and love in everyday life, urging us to empathize with the broken decisions they make and to better understand the pain that surrounds them.
“Depression and I had dated off and on for years. And sometimes depression fucked me good. But I didn’t want to marry it, and the day I called that hotline, my depression seemed a final fate: an arranged marriage I lacked the strength to defy.”
From chasing after a crush at a pinball machine to obsessing over a TV show about an animal whisperer, this collection never fails to introduce entertaining new perspectives and provide new imperfect characters to spend time with.
In the third story in this collection (“What Family Does”), a young girl’s unhealthy crush is juxtaposed with a mother, father, and grandfather’s mistakes and questionable behaviors. Problematic power dynamics in romantic relationships are put under a microscope in this one, and somehow, Wortman keeps me rooting for our protagonist’s temporary happiness despite knowing all too well that it’s not the right choice to make. But still, I need to see her happy and proud, at least for a moment.
Not only do the accessible and entertaining voices provide for a clean reading experience, but the book is also made intensely readable thanks to much shorter stories interspersed between longer ones. Readers are given a natural, real-time break to make it easy and satisfying to read from cover to cover.
The titular story “This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love.” is one that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time. It tells the story of a singular woman and her attempts at letting herself be happy, and it also sparks an intriguing conversation about the depression we hide and let build up. It discusses family, inevitability, and what relationships do to love, and really—I think everyone can get something out of Annie’s attempt to improve.
“Stop telling me I’m so great all the time, that everything’s so great. It makes me feel like shit.”
With string-tight plotlines and unique characters, the stories in this collection manage entertain as well as illuminate the invisible things we share. These stories shed light on the heartbreak in hope and illustrate the perils and triumphs of being human, of acting and reacting, of loving and living.
Publisher: Split Lip Press
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