Review: Love, In Theory by E.J. Levy

27th September 2012

*This book was sent to me by the publisher The University of Georgia Press in exchange for an honest review.

Love, In Theory has the perfect cover, a flow chart of sorts, and I want to illustrate the paths. It says:

Ten Stories

…of love and passion in theory, in fact, in fiction, in love.

…of love and passion and heartbreak in fact, in fiction, in love.

…of love and betrayal and heartbreak in fact, in fiction, in love.

…of love and betrayal between women and women in fiction in love.

…of love and betrayal between women and men and men in love.

But Love, In Theory isn’t romance. It’s love, as it says, in theory. Why in theory? Many of the characters in these stories don’t seem quite sure what love is, or at least they have clicked to the fact that love is not, in fact, birds chirping sweetly and fish swimming around lovers in rowboats.

I have to confess that I haven’t finished this book, but only because I’ve been so incredibly busy. I will say, though, that in the hospital and in hospice, I kept coming back to it. I couldn’t sustain a novel, and it was so nice to pick up a story, read it, and put it down again. As Audra mentioned in her review, the first story “The Best Way Not to Freeze” was so affecting, I had to read it twice.

Then there were moments where the emotion and writing just seemed so perfect:

Panic, she recalls, was named for the god of wilderness. She heads for home.

She takes the parkway fast, rounds a lake and then another and then she is in the woods. Passing Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, it occurs to Lisa to stop, but she has spent too much time already in this dark wood; she is ready to be done with it. She’ll find no Virgil there to guide her; she’s going to have to make her way alone for now and maybe for years to come, alone, and the thought of this – of herself alone, without Richard, in the vast stretch of time that is her future – makes her, finally, cry.

And this:

Cab rides in New York are like a love affair: one surrenders oneself to the care of strangers, trusting that they will take you to the right place. To the place you cannot get to on your own.

Full of love at its best and worst, Love, In Theory by E.J. Levy is a readable, addictive collection of stories about love, lust, loss, and loneliness.

Check out other opinions or add it to your shelf on Goodreads. Also, make sure to check out the other tour stops!

  • heidenkind

    Fish swimming around couples in rowboats? So you watched The Little Mermaid, too? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Um, duh. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Charlie

    I read Audra’s review too and with yours as affirmative also, it sounds a very good book. The combination of the overall idea, the title and short story structure, does seem from a person who hasn’t read it perspective, to be a strength. Something like that sort of begs for a lot of details that the smaller cast of characters in a novel wouldn’t be able to provide.

    • Yes, definitely. I really like the structure of it, and I was impressed at the immediacy of the characters. Sometimes, in a short story, you don’t get that. Here you do.

  • I can’t read when stressed. I’m glad this volume gave you some escape — the stories had enough gut punch and prettiness to really grab (absorb!) my attention while I was reading.

    • I usually can read when I’m stressed, but I think it was the combination of stress and so much family around, I couldn’t focus. It was nice, though, to be able to dig into one story and then set it aside.

  • pattismith

    I’m not a fan of short stories so I passed on this one…but you and Audra have convinced me to give it a try…adding it to my WishList ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Well now I’m really curious to see what you think of it. Let me know if you pick it up.

  • EJ

    Thank you so much for taking time to read LIT, especially in the midst of such a difficult time–may thanks for your encouraging words. All best wishes, EJL

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing such an engaging collection. Best of luck!

  • HeatherTLC

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  • Pingback: E. J. Levy, author of Love, in Theory, on tour September/October 2012 | TLC Book Tours()