Short Stories Challenge – Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published October 20, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Care all about?:

Care focuses on a woman called Tessa who is entrusted with the care of her niece for a day yet due to a drug addiction she can barely take care of herself.

What did I think?:

I’m really enjoying this short story collection by Julie Orringer and Care is another example of everything a short story should be – intriguing, informative, thrilling and satisfying, giving you just enough at the end to be pleasing, while still leaving you wanting a bit more. The main character of the story is Tessa and she is taking care of her niece Olivia for the day while her older sister is at a conference and has a whole exciting day ahead filled with ice cream, watching some sea-lions and souvenir shopping. That is, if she can stop thinking about the pills she has in her jacket pocket, “Devvie’s” and “Sallies” which, at the beginning of this story, she is determined to do without. Just feeling the familiarity of the pillbox appears to be enough initially until she finds herself getting short-tempered with her niece and decides to take a Devvie, just to make it through the day.

We don’t learn much about her life but what we do learn is enough. Her mother died when she was very young and she used to be very close with her sister Gayle (Olivia’s mother), to the point where they both made plans to live in Barcelona together. However, as Gayle grew up and met the love of her life, that notion slipped away and Tessa was left in a sort of limbo, not entirely sure what she was going to do, so heavily invested was she in the Barcelona plan. It is when Tessa meets her boyfriend Kenji that things really start falling apart. He is the one who introduces her to the drugs, they often take a concoction together and now it has become a daily ritual.

The day starts to turn sour when Olivia decides she wants a soft toy which Tessa cannot pay for then encourages her to steal and turns into her worst nightmare when just after taking another pill (a Sallie this time) Olivia goes missing. Tessa is in a bathroom stall at the time in a drugged stupor, having trouble focusing and becoming anxious as the drug takes effect. This is probably the lowest part of her life so far, when she finally realises how much she is reliant on the drug and the effect her addiction can have on her and other people’s lives.

This was a brilliant little story and had me hooked from the very first page. I was instantly interested in the character of Tessa and enjoyed finding out about her life and what had brought her to be in this very sticky situation. Of course, the tension is ramped up a notch when Olivia goes missing and I had to remind myself to slow down and savour every moment as I desperately wanted to read ahead and see what the outcome was! I don’t even feel that I can criticise any part of this story, it was beautifully written and I was quite disappointed in a way when it ended. I want to know what happens to Tessa next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

3 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

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