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Shelf Awareness: "to assume the brevity of these tales limits their ability to convey big ideas about the institution of marriage is to fail to appreciate Rhodes's skill with flash fiction."

Date: Jan 28 2014

Individually, the stories in Dan Rhodes's Marry Me tell of singular events related to marriage. In "Friends," a wife leaves her husband but asks to remain friends. "Carbon" is a proposal story, in which a man, unable to afford a diamond, substitutes a piece of carbon. Weddings form the center of "Goethe," in which a young woman mocks the absurdity of over-the-top weddings until she finds herself planning one of her own.

There are more than 75 stories in Rhodes's slim collection; the longest is three pages, the shortest even shorter than this review, but to assume the brevity of these tales limits their ability to convey big ideas about the institution of marriage is to fail to appreciate Rhodes's skill with flash fiction. The short form allows Rhodes to jump around, first to a marriage dissolving, then to a union forming, to a couple resigning themselves to each other, to a proposal refused. Though strange at first--it is nearly impossible to commit to any one character in less than a page--the clipped rhythm ultimately works, as the stories move from poignant to pathetic to humorous and back again, never letting the reader know what to expect next. On their own, each story is an interesting glimpse into a particular situation in a particular relationship; combined, the tales form a prism of the complicated, messy, hilarious, pathetic, wonderful, awful thing that is marriage.

-Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm