Sidecar by Ann McMan is a short story collection that’s not to be missed. I had wondered how she went from Jericho’s expansive style to the tight pacing and plotting of Aftermath, and now it’s clear to me: the four pieces in Sidecar are perfect examples of concise, yet fulfilling storytelling.
In “V1: A Valentine’s Day Odyssey,” we catch up with Maddie and Syd as a romantic gesture turns into a hilarious disaster. “Bottle Rocket” introduces us to the characters from Backcast, showing the events that infamously landed them in jail together at CLIT-Con. In “Falling From Grace,” we see how taking a chance on a one-night stand can lead to a surprise. “Nevermore!” features Diz and Clarissa, office mates who start to see each other a little differently at the company Christmas party.
In the Foreword, Salem West talks about how Ann McMan asked her if she writes the same characters over and over. This, of course, prompted me to especially keep an eye out, despite her response “Most assuredly not,” and I have to agree. Maddie and Syd and the rest of the characters from Jericho were familiar, true to how I’ve seen them in their full-length novels, but the others were different. Sure, many of her characters are sharp and quick witted, but they by no means blend into each other, and each character is distinct.
If I had to choose a few favourites, at the top of the list would probably be Kate. I mean, come on, how can I not love the book critic?! Shawn is a great match for her, though, and I loved seeing how they first met. My next favourite is probably Diz, the hilarious woman who gets regularly mistaken for Rachel Maddow. And then, of course, I still adore Maddie and Syd. How could I not?
The Writing Style
Not only were the characters different, but the writing style changed from story to story, reminding me of exactly how good a writer Ann McMan is. “Bottle Rocket” and “V1” feel like they were written by two different people, and yet I know they’re not, and they’re both excellent. Most of the stories had me laughing out loud, often embarrassing myself in public. They were engrossing and thought provoking, and I loved the way “Bottle Rocket” pokes fun at tired cliches in lesfic, with the author even going so far as to make a dig at herself.
Oh goodness, everything?
That I waited this long to read it? That it’s not in audio, and I want to listen to more of Ann McMan’s words paired with Christine Williams’s voice? Fine, you’re right, I have no cons for this book.
If you want to see how short story writing should be done, pick up Sidecar because it has it all—crisp writing, great plotting, and excellent character work. Nothing is excess, with everything on the page for a reason, all working together to leave me a very satisfied reader.
Excerpt from Sidecar by Ann McMan
“Anybody ever tell you that you’re annoying and a total wiseass?”
Shawn laughed. “Add frumpy and you could be channeling my mother.”
They started the slow journey across Kate’s room.
“Your mother thinks you’re a frumpy and annoying wiseass?”
Shawn nodded. “And an old maid.”
“I think I like her.”
“She’s a Jew from Lower Merion who has elevated misery to the level of art.”
“Now I know I like her.”
“Either you’re a freak with a fondness for scrapple and the Mummer’s Day Parade, or you’re just eager to side with anyone who wholly disapproves of me.”
“Are these the only options?”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 978-1612940878
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Ann McMan Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Sidecar by Ann McMan. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.