Ryan Stone’s writing absolutely shines in his collection of twelve short stories entitled Best Road Yet. In particular, Stone is able to create realistic, multilayered characters who have distinct personalities—the way they speak, talk, eat, and even snore is engrossing, largely because Stone takes the time to develop the details and complexities of each individual. He writes: “He was only a sliver, a slip of the tongue they sometimes let out, and that’s how they mentioned him. Eddie’s coming, too, they’d say.” It is clear that Stone writes with intention, aware of how each element of writing contributes to the development of the story, and he has great control in his work.
His characters are neither good nor bad—they are capable of doing bad things with good reasons, good things with tenderness and uncertainty, and sometimes nothing at all—and every story is written with humanity and empathy. In one example, Stone writes: “Ted shoved his hands in his pockets, lowered his shoulders. Arnez had the same look as the time they were lost in the woods. Defeated. Ted lifted his hand to his face and rubbed it but couldn’t feel anything. His arms tingled around the wrists; his breath came in short gasps. Inside the bathroom, they could hear the old man banging around, probably trying to figure out the toilet paper dispenser.”
Stone uses the landscape of Missouri and the Mid-West beautifully and invents truly interesting scenarios: two sons are made responsible for their formerly abusive father, now afflicted with Alzheimer’s; a man finds out he’s a father one month before his son is born; a drug dealer intrudes on another family’s vacation day. Stone is also notably talented at creating tension without resorting to melodrama. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of short stories and whole-heartedly recommend it.