Something a little bit different – this is a brand new eBook released by the ever-so-talented Meg Fee. This gal has been writing for a long time over here from her home in New York City, and I came across her writing maybe six years ago now. This month everything became very exciting because she published an eBook called Places I Stopped On The Way Home, which is a short collection of essays based on the men she has known in the city.
Places is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. Fee writes with such heart and such elegance that you treasure her words and carry them with you; I’ve done this on more than one occasion, repeated them to myself like little mantras when the chips are down. We travel with her through the streets of New York – we ride the A train (“I was eighteen and new to the city. Everything felt like an invitation”), the D train (“I see him coming down the [subway] stairs and I look at him, mute and expectant and terrified”), and we visit John F Kennedy airport, where the man she is dating makes the decision to leave her at the gate and go to Paris alone, a story that should be sad but which in fact redeems itself, in that it gives the author a realisation worth its weight in gold: “And walking away from you I felt cheap and angry, but mostly grateful. Because I suddenly knew. I suddenly knew you were not the man I’d want driving a kid to the emergency room with blood on the backseat.” Fee finds her authorial voice and uses it, pouring her very raw, very honest experiences onto the page without worrying about whether the men she writes of will read it – who cares if they do. This is about so much more than that.
We go with her Downtown, where a missed opportunity is filled with regret: “But occasionally when I think about if I’ve ever really made a man smile -or if I ever could – your name sticks at the back of my throat. And my fear is that I never gave you a smile to equal that.” Fee strings words together poetically, describes the supporting characters in her narrative vividly: “Her lips were stained a deep plum and she wore a bright yellow dress that hung loose on her dancer’s body,”and we are truly on her side, rooting for her to pluck up the courage, to smile at the guy, to own her self-worth and shout it from the rooftops. Fee writes a lot in the second person, “It ends with your warm beer on the table between us” – which creates an intimacy with the reader, a closeness that has you right there with her, in that sticky bar, sitting on that rocking subway train, nervous and tired in a crowded house in Harlem. She notices the small things in life, the way a man holds the lid of her coffee cup, the way a self-conscious boy smooths down his hair (“Oh, you too, huh?”) and she describes life in the city without any lies – at times is is lonely, it can be bleak – she has lived in NYC for ten years and struggles with a constant desire to leave – but above all it remains hopeful, and she remains open to the city and what it has to give.
If you’ve read her blog (and you definitely should), you’ll know Fee is a writer obsessed with the idea of home (indeed, she says it herself) and the chapters in this book are her resting points along the way, the places we all have, the memories we make and the men we meet on the journey of our lives. It’s her first foray into publishing, I believe, but I’m willing to bet it won’t be her last.