Women On Top

Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky

I want to meet the women in this collection of short stories by Michelle Miller. They are not perfect, and some even have some characteristics that make them edgy and calculating, but I think that is why the collection is titled Women on Top.

These ladies don’t settle, and they go after what they want, sometimes in unconventional and surprising ways.

Whether you agree with the paths they follow or not, you have to respect that they stay true to themselves, and aren’t afraid to be ambitious, strategic, and yes, a little bit selfish.

Sometimes their choices backfire on them, and they are undone by other women or, as in the story “Jocelyn,” by the men in their lives. Still, they deserve credit for remaining true to themselves and what they want.

The one exception to this might be Jocelyn, who marries a man that she knows can take care of her, as opposed to a man she truly loves or is passionate about. We meet her when she is on vacation with him, counting down how much longer she needs to stay with him in order to honor her prenup and walk away with enough money to live comfortably and go back to pursuing her former dreams of a stage career.

Then there is “Kate,” whom we don’t meet until the very end of her story. In fact, when you start reading, the story appears to be about Faye, a younger woman fooling around with an older, married man. You wonder who Kate is and when she will make an appearance. She comes in at the very end of the story, but her role in its outcome is one that is both surprising and sinister, and despite the fact her actions are not admirable, there is a bit of a sense of poetic justice in what she does.

In one story, “Jules,” the main character gets what she thinks she wants, what she, in fact, herself pursued, only to realize once she’s in it, that even though it would appear to be perfect and satisfying, it’s not what she truly desired.

The one thing I truly liked about this collection is that these are modern women in modern times, dealing with careers, love, independence, and following their dreams, while also feeling the need to be loved and in love and with someone to share their lives with.

As in real life, how their stories progress, and then end, is not the stuff of fairy tales. These stories are relevant, and both simply written and well-written–not always an easy feat to accomplish. They are a great escape and would make a perfect beach read, or a book to enjoy with a big glass of wine after a long day.

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