Book Review: A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends, Stacy Bierlein (2012)

April 4th, 2012 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

Enjoy it: poolside with a glass of wine and your BFF.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

I don’t always read fiction – but when I do, I almost always read science fiction and horror. (Think: Margaret Atwood, Maureen F. McHugh, Philip Pullman, and Stephen King.) Stacy Bierlein’s A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends, then, is well outside my comfort zone. I requested it through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program, thinking it would make for light, entertaining summer reading. Spoiler alert! I won it, and it did.

The common thread linking the fourteen essays in this anthology is, ostensibly, sex and relationships. However, these also function as a jumping-off points from which to explore a variety of other topics, such as loss, grief, friendship, and self-expression. (As elucidated by the author in the Reader’s Guide, which is primarily comprised of an interview with Bierlein.) With the sole exception of “Ten Reasons Not to Sleep with a Poet,” I found all the stories enjoyable. “Three Naked Men,” “Linguistics,” and “Where it Starts” in particular are standouts. (I quite liked the reverse timeline in “Where it Starts,” even if it proved confusing at first. Bierlein describes herself as someone who “write[s] and think[s] in fragments” – and the nonlinear quality these stories is part of their charm, I think.)

Even so, I had trouble relating to many of Bierlein’s characters, all of whom tend to be heterosexual, cissexual, middle- to upper-class (many with seemingly unlimited disposable income, and residing in large cities on the East or West coast), and (apparently) white. This lack of diversity will no doubt turn some readers off.

Bonus points because: Bierlein self-identifies as a feminist.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

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