Treats by Lara Williams is a collection of stories that is rich in cynicism about the modern age. Combine this with a sense of apathy of day to day life, and these stories often provide unique and noteworthy commentary.
One of the best things about Treats is that while there is often a similar voice that flows in and out of each of these stories, the individual stories themselves never feel repetitive – each one stands its own ground, and lets the reader enjoy what Williams has to offer.
Treats follows the dilemma of life as they play out. Whether this means that someone is unhappy with the relationship they are in, severely depressed, have an interest in taxidermy that is considered unusual by those around them, sometimes they are losing their grasp on reality and often it is many of these things wrapped up in one. Williams successfully portrays the ambivalence, or in some cases extreme, feelings that occur in day to day life.
Williams displays these themes in a variety of ways through her writing. Her usual go-to character is a single woman, who often struggles with these issues in lieu of a life crisis. Williams writers these characters extremely well, and often the stories are a fresh of air to what most male writers try to grasp at with these same themes. While most writers shy away from writing in the second person, Williams brings it into multiple stories, and though she may not always land as successfully as Junot Diaz does in his work, she successfully makes it believable and interesting to read, and makes it inviting into the world that she has created, rather than seeming like an exercise pulled from a writing workshop.
Treats is at its strongest when it combines its themes with a characters unique trait, such as in the titular story. It focuses on a woman who pays it forward, and often commits to doing nice things for others, even though it’s often unrewarded and her deeds go unnoticed. It’s an interesting concept on something that happens in real life, and ultimately realises that despite all these kind things she does for others, she has no friends. It’s a standout story, and takes the running theme in the collection above and beyond – but maybe I’m just a sucker for a character who is lonely and reflects this with popular trends. Williams has a good reputation and has appeared in lots of great publications, such as Unthology 8 and Litro.
The stories always start out and maintain strong, but often peter out towards the end. Williams isn’t a writer who writes happy endings, and that’s fine – the world doesn’t need more people walking off into the sunset. The stories often end on a half-resolution and a sentence or two which feels like it’s supposed to be symbolic, but often rings flat. It’s a small point to make but it does run the risk of making the reader feel like they’ve fallen at the last hurdle, and it might just be what stops this solid collection from being a great one. Nonetheless, Treats does read like a breath of fresh air, and is well worth your time if you’re interested in the contemporary short story.