“Book Review: Not Dead Yet”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
A subtle look into loss and how people are changed by their circumstances.
In this debut short story collection, Hadley Moore creates strong characters in unfortunate situations, ready to deal with them in any way they know how. She cracks humanity right open with her rendition of how different people are changed by the losses they experience with Not Dead Yet and Other Stories.
Moore is an expert at making you feel for her characters. Each story features people who differ in age, health, and race, so there’s a good chance you’ll resemble one but definitely not all. The dialogue is sincere and honest, but it’s their pain that makes these characters constantly relatable. Even when they’re in the wrong (or just being terrible), the humanity of each character shines through in a way that makes us see ourselves in the best and worst of them.
“…it’s weird and scary all the easy ways to injure yourself, cuts and burns, stopping blood flow, falling off the pier. Getting cancer. Walking into the lake.”
In nearly all of her stories, Hadley Moore maintains a subtlety that leaves the reader on edge, waiting for something to explode. This is probably because the subject matter in most of them is so intense. Each character has some part of their world being turned upside down, or they’re living a life stuck in the aftermath. In “Last Things,”a woman is learning to deal with her mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and reminiscing on all the ways she’s wronged her while he was alive. I had no idea how it would all converge in the end, making it for a fascinating and mysterious read.
In “Ordinary Circumstances,” a man navigates his family’s new life since his wife turned heavily to religion after the death of their 10-year-old nephew. The circumstances of the nephew are heartbreaking in the first place, but the story focuses instead on the aftermath. Moore digs into how not only do the character’s day-to-day lives change but how the sum of these blows change their personalities permanently.
Though heavy in subject matter, Moore still finds ways to make the reader laugh. The stubbornness of main character Morley in the story “With or Without You” will make you smile as he insists his small backyard is a field. Or you’ll cringe when he openly admits his disdain toward his daughter as he’s forced to celebrate her associate’s degree in fashion design at 30 years old. It almost makes you forget that he’s grieving the loss of his first wife, despite it happening just a few years ago. “The Entomologist” brings humor to the page as the main character, an older woman from Portland, Oregon, is overrun by hippies who take over her backyard to build a micro-farm. Moore gives us moments of joy that help balance out the sadness, making the book both enjoyable and heartbreaking at the same time.
“The grief was only intermittent now, but it seemed to grow more acute, not less. He would shut down periodically and forget he loved his family.”
It’s hard to pick a favorite out of this group of short stories. Each could stand proudly on their own, ripe for conversation. I have no problem calling Not Dead Yet a must-read, as I finished it wanting to hug everyone I’ve ever met. And I think that’s a pretty good thing.
Publisher: Autumn House Press
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