The stories in How to Breathe Underwater, Julie Orringer's debut collection, swim with tragedies both commonplace and horrific. A fall from a treehouse, an ailing mother, a near-drowning, a premature baby, a gun--each is the source of a young woman's coming-of-age, which we witness through Orringer's lovely, driving prose. The author possesses an uncanny ability to capture scenes and complex emotions in quick strokes. In "Pilgrims," young Ella is taken to a hippie household for Thanksgiving, where her mother joins several other cancer patients in search of natural remedies: "Some of them wore knitted hats like her mother, their skin dull-gray, their eyes purple-shaded underneath. To Ella it seemed they could be relatives of her mother's, shameful cousins recently discovered." Shame is as omnipresent as water in this collection, sadly appropriate for stories about girls becoming women. Orringer possesses an acute understanding of the many rules of girlhood, in particular the uniquely childish importance of "not telling" (for fear of becoming a traitor, and consequently, an outcast). But though her subjects may take us to the murky depths--submerging us in the cruelties girls and siblings commit against each other--Orringer's nimble writing and subtle humor allow us to breathe. --Brangien Davis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Trapped in awkward, painful situations, the young protagonists of Orringer's debut collection discover surprising reserves of wisdom in themselves. Their trials are familiar if harsh-the illness and death of parents and friends, social ostracism-but Orringer's swift, intricate evocation of individual worlds gives depth and integrity to her nine stories, set everywhere from Florence to New Orleans to Disney World. The collection's title comes from "The Isabel Fish," in which 14-year-old Maddy is learning how to scuba dive after surviving a car accident in which her older brother's girlfriend drowned. Maddy is sure her brother hates her, and when he kills the fish she is raising for a science fair project, she can hardly blame him. It is only when they go diving together that she realizes he feels as guilty as she does. In "Note to Sixth-Grade Self"-written in a telegraphic second person-the narrator details her torments at the hands of a popular girls who speaks with a stutter. The cruelty of children is also dissected in "Stations of the Cross," in which Jewish Lila Solomon attends her friend's first Communion in the Deep South, and finds herself reluctantly playing a part in an enactment of the Crucifixion. In "When She Is Old and I Am Famous," fat Mira must cope with the arrival of her supermodel cousin: "Aida. That is her terrible name. Ai-ee-duh: two cries of pain and one of stupidity." By the end of the story, Aida has won over Mira, who finally empathizes with her bids for attention. No matter how wronged they have been, Orringer's characters are open to reconciliation and even willing to save their tormentors. It is this promise of grace-and Orringer's smooth, assured storytelling-that distinguishes the collection.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
My feelings about the short stories, the characters and the situations mentioned in the stories were very mixed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Sally Esakov
Perhaps a little too much Lord of the Flies in a few of the stories, but they are a well written if rather bleak evocation of childhood and parenting. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Christopher Junker
These are nine powerful stores. Most view the world through the eyes of a young girl who experiences life as painful and unfair. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kindle Customer
The writing is clean and original. The voice of the characters is totally believable. I was disturbed by the dark side of many of the stories. Read morePublished 6 months ago by rochelle singer
3.5 stars. In each of these stories a young tween or teen has an obstacle to face and try to overcome. Most are quite dysfunctional. Some make good choices and others not so much. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lynn Hough
Julie Orringer’s first book, the collection of stories, How to Breathe Underwater, exhibits the same unsettling beauty and emotional intensity that define her splendid novel, The... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Roger Deblanck
These touching and well-written stories often draw the reader in and foster empathy with the narrating character. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Caitlin Lawler