Julie Christine's Reviews > How to Breathe Underwater

How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
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Mar 06, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: shorts, read-2011, contemporary-fiction
Read from March 20 to 26, 2011

Orringer writes with confidence, but without much passion. These nine stories are perfectly constructed, and the author has a keen ear for natural dialogue, but with few exceptions, I was not moved by the characters or their dilemmas.

In each, whether the voice is first or third person (even, in the case of Note to Sixth-Grade Self, second person), the protagonist is a young girl or a coming of age adolescent. Each faces a significant loss- either of a loved one or of innocence. Very high marks to Pilgrims, a subtle homage to Lord of the Flies, and Note to Sixth-Grade Self; these stories spill out the inherent, almost innocent cruelty of children. Shrugs to Stars of Motown Shining Bright and The Smoothest Way Is Full of Stones, both centered on characters discovering and exploring their sexual selves, and When She Is Old and I Am Famous, which was entertaining but empty.

Less than the themes, which did not always resonate with me, was Orringer's writing. It's very modern and linear, clean and sharp. I admire this, but there was no place to escape and rest for a moment. The Isabel Fish and Care came very close, as the characters slipped quietly into depression or a drug-induced high. But those aren't places in which I wanted to linger.
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Reading Progress

07/19/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris I didn't realize she had a book before "The Invisible Bridge!" Thank you for pointing that out!


Julie Christine She's got an amazing resume!


message 3: by Jill (new)

Jill For some reason, I just haven't been able to connect with her or with this book. But the critics DID love it...


Julie Christine All right. Picking this up at the library later today. Back on shorts track.


message 5: by Jill (new)

Jill Yep. Your first line says it all -- just the way I felt.


Caroline I've just finished the first story. Tactile but very strange. I feel both clarity (I'm there in the story), and distance (I'm way out of it.) It's what I imagine having an out of body experience would be like.


Julie Christine Caroline wrote: "I've just finished the first story. Tactile but very strange. I feel both clarity (I'm there in the story), and distance (I'm way out of it.) It's what I imagine having an out of body experie..."
Curious to learn what you think of the rest, Caroline. I STILL haven't read 'The Invisible Bridge' though it remains on the TBR shelf


Caroline I am plowing on, but not with much enthusiasm. Hopefully I will reach the end....


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