Guest Review by Melanie
Buy Link: By The Way
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: Short Story

Rating: 4.5 stars

After 15 years in an unhappy, bitter marriage, Wally is finally getting the divorce he craves and on his terms. Or so he thinks. At the last minute, his wife reveals she is pregnant with another man’s child. A child, no matter whose, is the only thing Wally has ever wanted out of his marriage but it will come at a price – his future as a freewheeling bachelor making up for lost time.  Wally has only loved two people in his life – Kathleen, who only saw him as a meal ticket, and Antoine, his closest friend and companion since high school. But he has never told Antoine how he feels and his best friend believes Wally is straight.

Antoine is gay and a player.  He hated Kathleen and has been in love with Wally since they first met.  Antoine is leaving for London and imagines starting a new life with Wally.  Now Wally must tell Antoine that he is going to have a child. With major life changes ahead, Wally must decide if he should make one more and tell Antoine how he feels, or whether he should remain safe, in fear of losing the friendship of the one person he cares about most of all.

I loved this story.  It’s warm and real and Derr’s characters engaged me from the start. Wally is older, with touches of gray in his hair and is just now emerging out of a lonely, bitter marriage. He views the dissolution of his marriage with clarity and the anticipation of making up for the lost years. Antoine is harder to pin down at the start, but he quickly grows on you. He’s angry that Wally is once more letting Kathleen off the hook for her actions and the reader feels the tension and frustration that boils out of Antoine. Both men are keeping secrets from each other, afraid that to ask for more will cost them everything. These men are human with a capital H, their flaws ours. Ambitious, insecure, smart, and needy… all that and more.  It is easy to understand and empathize with them because we know people like them. And that’s great writing.

The publisher tells us that this is a side story to Derr’s book The Missing Butterfly. I have not read that book and didn’t feel I needed to in order to appreciate this one. My only quibbles with this story are that the main characters last names are not included in the book and that one event where they dressed in drag is mentioned but not elaborated on. I don’t know if that is due to an assumption that readers would be familiar from The Missing Butterfly, or an oversight on the editor’s part. Either way, they are minor irritations.

By The Way is my first Megan Derr book, but definitely not the last. This book is sending me to both The Missing Butterfly and its sequel, Tabloid Trouble. Maybe I will run into Antoine and Wally there. I certainly hope so. I have become so fond of them.

Cover: The two wine glasses speak to a major event in Wally and Antoine’s relationship. Simple yet elegant. Nice job.