Fresh Complaint is a book of short stories by the author of Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides.
The theme of Fresh Complaint is men behaving badly, although to be fair, some of the men were coerced into behaving as they did. Not all of the stories feature male main characters, but in these cases, the men’s behaviour impacts the female characters, causing a problem.
Complainers tells of two aging female friends as the eldest of the two becomes unable to look after herself due to poor health and dementia. The women share the love of a good book;
“They didn’t consider themselves intellectuals but they knew good writing from bad. Most of all, they liked a good story.”
Baster is the funniest of the stories in the collection and was my favourite. Tomasina is desperate to fall pregnant and although her ex-boyfriend Wally still loves her and is keen to be a father himself, Tomasina chooses someone else to provide the raw material… The outcome of this story made me surprisingly happy, despite my qualms about the characters’ behaviour.
Great Experiment is the story of an employee looking for a better deal from his employer. I felt sorry for the main character in this story, even though he should have listened to his conscience. (Isn’t that always the way?)
The title story, Fresh Complaint is the story of a Physics Professor who meets a young Indian woman desperate to avoid an arranged marriage. Another set of characters who should have listened to their consciences before making stupid choices.
Air Mail is the story of a young man travelling on the hippie trail who contracts a tummy bug. In my opinion he would have been better served by antibiotics than by searching for a spiritual remedy for his diarrhoea…
Each of the stories in Fresh Complaint were the perfect length to dip in and out of when my available reading time was short. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but as I’ve come to expect from this author, the plot of each was varied, unpredictable and interesting.