A realist collection on girlhood and growing up

IMG_4814How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer was such a brilliant, emotionally resonant, pensive and slightly dark collection of stories focussing on girlhood and growing up. Every story is incredibly distinct and beautifully realized. It deals with complex issues like dealing with the loss of a parent, sibling rivalry, the very cruel things that children are capable of doing to one another, friendship and sisterhood. Some might find this collection a little too dark, a little too bleak, but I found it incredibly realistic. While overall, the entire collection is really strong, I’ve highlighted some of my favourites below.
In The Isabel Fish young girl is in a car crash with her brother’s girlfriend and she survives while the girlfriend dies. The story then follows the repercussions of that incident and the toll it takes on her relationship with her brother.
The Smoothest Way is Full of Stones follows two cousins, one of whom has recently taken a very devout/religious lifestyle. When the two girls find an adult book, the devout one becomes increasingly interested in sin while the other begins to adhere more to a religious lifestyle.
In What We Save, two children go to an amusement park with their mother who is suffering from Cancer along with the family of their mother’s high school boyfriend. This story is incredibly moving and filled with regret as the young girl watches her mother wane while the mother reflects on lost chances from her younger days.
IMG_4750Note to Sixth Grade Self is a heart-wrenching story of a woman looking back in her life and writing a letter to her six-year-old self, on how she could have dealt with being bullied.
The first story, Pilgrims, in my opinion, is possibly the darkest story in the collection. If you find that a little too dark, try a couple of other stories before deciding if the collection is for you.
Rating: 4.25/5

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