“An exceptional collection or dark short stories whose protagonists have several things in common, namely, coming-of-age young women of Jewish background. The stories are told with an easy rythym and a humming in the background that alerts the reader that something bad is going to happen and why, just not when, how or when. I highly recommend How to breathe underwater by the award-winning author, Julie Orringer.”She wrote this review Sunday, January 9, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A great collection of stories. I was really enjoying the final one until a puppy ate the last two pages”Elizabeth M wrote this review Friday, January 7, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Here is Julie Orringer genius that touches my heart. She is an amazing adult writer who can capture the complexities of a child’s life. She does it over and over in this anthology.
I don’t know where to start with the “Smoothest Way is Full of Stones”. Somewhere in the distance, a young teenage jewish girl’s mother is dying of cancer. Somewhere in the foreground, this same daughter’s sadness mixes with a sudden sexual awareness. There is no time to breathe. Orringer knows the opressive world of a jewish orthodox family – the girls go swimming in a pond fully clothed for heaven’s sake. Likewise, the author understandably feels for a young girl coming to terms with her own sexuality. Orringer’s eye for subtle details and emotions develop both tension and beauty. Her final image of the young girl floating free and naked in the ice cold water may not provide complete understanding for the duality of life, but it will run shivers down your spine.
“Pilgrims” details a frightening children’s accident at a Thanksgiving gathering. It’s freaky because the parents are out-dated hippies who encourage their kids to explore, experience and bond through make believe games. All this goes on in the back yard, while the adults stay inside to pursue more grown-up activities that transcend the holiday. They are into vegetarianism, eastern meditation and other holistic philosophies. Orringer creates a strange dreamscape inside where the adults leave the outside world outside. There’s straw mats and incense. The rooms are dark are painted in dark colors and the curtains are blue. “Everything looks like its under water.”
Fine, but who is watching the kids? While the adults celebrate their inner peace and awareness, A six-year old lies dead in the backyard with a broken neck. The kids are left to distinguish real truth on their own. In Orringer’s stories kids grow up never knowing what to believe or where to turn. Who are they to trust? Even though the parents appear loving and intelligent, they are long gone.
So, here is where Orringer brings it all together for me: In her “What We Save”, there is nothing about sex and no water. Here, there is another young girl whose mother is dying of cancer. It’s a pattern, Ok? But instead of separation of experience, there is a special bonding of experience. Helena, the young girl, takes on the most daunting of tasks in trying to relive her mother’s romantic past in her dying days.
I told you about the “complexities”. Any word Helena’s mother speaks might be her last. They spend a final experience together at Disneyworld visiting with the man that accompanied Helena’s mother to the prom 25 years before. Helena’s mother has saved the romance in her heart. In the mean time, Helena remains an up-close witness to everything the cancer has taken away. In experienced and frightened, Helena does so with incredible dignity for a 14-year old girl.
Fortunately, Orringer doesn’t have any answers for pain and inexperience. She does provide meaningful opportunities for her characters to learn painful lessons about grief and hardship.
I guess that’s what she means by learning “How to Breath Underwater.”
“This is an outstanding collection of short stories that left me wanting to read many more. Orringer's descriptions of adolescents and many of the feelings and experiences kids have growing up is touching and thought-provoking. I look forward to reading her novel "The Invisible Bridge."”David Doty wrote this review Sunday, July 18, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A truly amazing collection of short stories from Julie Orringer. A must read.”Kirstin MacKenzie wrote this review Sunday, June 13, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Excellent writing. Depressing material. ”Cecilia Duvalle wrote this review Monday, June 7, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This collection of stories was a comparison and contrast of women in varying situations and lifestyles and the way that they cope with tragedies. It was an easy, fairly sparse read that tended toward the minimal style of writing. Although this book would be a good, quick summer read (and I enjoyed most of all the story that gave the book its title), for me it lacked the spark that I feel with the books that I really love. It was easy, but it felt like a case of nothing risked, nothing gained: the stories were clean and effortless, but effort and struggle in writing yields something rare and precious, and I felt that these stories ultimately lacked these end results.”crazy bones wrote this review Friday, March 12, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Absolutely gorgeous writing.”R. Ryan wrote this review Monday, November 16, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This should be a must read for every high school cirriculum. I currently read this in my living writers class at Syracuse University and all of my classmates found it intruguing and very realateable.”Sara C wrote this review Thursday, October 29, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No