Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Breathe Underwater

Author: Julie Orringer
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: 2003


                                                                         Recently, I've heard a lot about Julie Orringer's 
latest book; so I decided to get it on interlibrary loan. Unfortunately, it wasn't available. But I did come across her first novel, How to Breathe Underwater. I saw it was a collection of short stories and decided to give it a shot because, as I've said in other posts, I love short stories. When a short story comes together and is written right, it is a true work of art. Julie Orringer's collection of stories in this book are a masterpiece. I was hooked after reading the first story entitled "Pilgrims" and completely reeled in by "The Isabel Fish." My mind is still processing some of the stories.

This collection focuses on girls and women struggling to deal with love and loss and religion. She reminded me of Flannery O'Conner (and that's high praise coming from me). Like O'Conner, a number of Orringer's protagonists struggled coming to grips with their sexuality and religion and finding that balance between the two. Some of the stories were harsh and brutal and reminiscent of "Good Country People" and "A Good Man is Hard to Find." There was one major difference between O'Conner and Orringer: O'Conner told her stories from a distance whereas Orringer invited her readers to step into her characters minds and hearts and feel their struggles, love and loss and maybe, just maybe, when you're thrown to the bottom of the lake, grasping for air, you'll remember her words and breathe.


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