“She Loves Me Not” by Ron Hansen (2012) – 233 pages
“She Loves Me Not” is a solid interesting collection of stories, worth reading but by no means exceptionally good. Ron Hansen is not a natural-born short story writer like Alice Munro or William Trevor or Joyce Carol Oates or Tom Rachman or Maile Meloy. I realize I’m setting the bar quite high, but these other authors’ story collections are all out there to be read.
My grade for “She Loves Me Not” would be B-. Some of the stories in the collection are not fully developed and lack focus; some are sketchy. Not one story in the collection stood out as spectacularly well done.
As a short story writer, Ron Hansen goes wide rather than deep. The stories in “She Loves Me Not’ range from a story about the devastating effects when a massive winter blizzard strikes a small Nebraska community in 1888 to a story about a woman and her boyfriend’s attempt to kill her outlandish evil husband in the title story. There is also in “Wilde in Omaha” a story about Oscar Wilde’s book tour stop in Omaha In that story, all the best lines are the well-known ones from Oscar Wilde.
The story about the Nebraska blizzard, “Wickedness” was quite affecting, but it was more of a panorama of the local people caught in the blizzard rather than an actual story.
‘Eclectic’ is the operative word for Ron Hansen’s stories. The stories vary greatly in plot and feel. The diversity of the stories is a positive quality, but most of the stories are too short to go very deeply into their characters’ lives, and each story is stand-alone so there is no build-up of intensity from story to story.
Seven of the 19 stories are re-printed from Hansen’s 1989 collection ‘Nebraska’. I found these old selected ‘Nebraska’ stories some of the stronger in the collection. Most of the others were hit or miss for me with several of the stories not registering much of an impact at all.