Julie Orringer

All posts tagged Julie Orringer

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published July 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Stations Of The Cross all about?:

Stations Of The Cross is a coming of age story about two young girls from different religions and how peer pressure affects their friendship.

What did I think?:

I was quite sad when I realised that Stations Of The Cross was the final story in this collection by Julie Orringer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her work and will definitely be checking out more things by her in the future. If I think back over the entire collection, I believe my favourite story would have to be Note To Sixth-Grade Self as it was a story that really affected me personally but honest to God, there are no complete bloopers to be found at all. Yes, there were some stories I’ve appreciated more than others but unlike a few other collections in my Short Stories Challenge, I found it difficult to find a story here that I really disliked.

Anyway, back to Stations Of The Cross which is, as any practising/lapsed Catholic might have guessed is firmly rooted in religion, namely Catholicism. Our main character Lila however is Jewish and is absolutely fascinated by her best friend Carney’s Catholic faith. Lila and her mother have uprooted themselves from easy, breezy, inclusive New Orleans to a very different part of America – South Louisiana which they’ve found (in some cases) to have completely different ideals from the ones they are used to. For example, Carney is getting ready to celebrate her First Communion and is in uproar about the fact that her “bastard” cousin Dale is going to be invited. She has never met him before, his mother, Carney’s Aunt Marian caused shame to the family when she was determined to have the baby out of wedlock and to top it all off the baby’s father was black.

Lila can’t understand what all the fuss is about but then New Orleans appeared to welcome everyone regardless of colour or creed and it is only when her family has moved to South Louisiana that she realises the depth of hidden feelings unleashed to anyone who is “a bit different,” even herself and her mother are treated as outsiders for their Jewish faith. Aunt Marian and Dale arrive and things appear to be mellow enough (apart from the hideous whisperings from the family gathered in the back garden) but things soon escalate into places that Lila cannot believe she ever allowed herself to be taken to. It’s a great little story about growing up, how peer pressure is so damned and frustratingly effective and how dangerous and cruel some children can be when left to their own devices.

Julie Orringer chose to end How To Breathe Underwater with a real blinder of a story. I was raised Catholic myself although have not been to church for many, many years and do not practice the religion at all. In that way, it was quite nostalgic as I still have quite happy memories of my own First Communion (let me just hurriedly state it was NOTHING like this one though!). Additionally, I also enjoyed that the author chose to bring two characters together with very different beliefs/religions and explore their friendship, which can often be so tenuous and traumatic at that age, especially if one child is more of a “ringleader” than the other. Some may say that it goes to extremes, especially at the end but I think I have to disagree. I have personal experience with peer pressure in my past and can completely understand how controlling and devastating outcomes can be if people get a little too carried away. Of course I don’t condone the behaviour of the children in this short story in any way, shape or form and wanted to shake them all for being so stupid and heartless but it just shows that this narrative really got under my skin and that’s the best kind of short story in my eyes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: An Anxious Man by James Lasdun from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part Two

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

I’ve read some terrific stories in Part One of my Short Stories Challenge for 2017 so far! However stand out stories have to be The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew and The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears. Here’s to finding some more great short stories and authors in Part Two!

The Reader by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Birds And Other Stories

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe from the collection The Best Short Stories Of Edgar Allan Poe

Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Stations Of The Cross by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Short Stories Challenge – What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published January 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s What We Save all about?:

The penultimate story in Julie Orringer’s marvellous short story collection focuses on two sisters who visit Disneyland in Florida with their mother who is suffering from cancer.

What did I think?:

I’ve really fallen in love with some of the characters and the stories in this collection. Hard-hitting, poignant, heart-breaking and often about difficult subjects, a lot of the stories are not exactly what I would call cheery reading but they definitely touch something inside of you as you read them. What We Save is another classic example of a family in turmoil, trying to make each day count as they spend a day out in the land of make believe, Disneyland, Orlando.

We are instantly placed into the perspective of a young girl of 14, Helena who also has a younger sister, Margot. They are on their way to Disneyland to meet up with their mother’s old high school sweetheart and his family to spend a magical day. All Helena can worry about is her mother, Nancy though and how she is feeling. We guess pretty early on that Nancy is seriously unwell, probably cancer when she is described as wearing a wig but it is confirmed fairly swiftly. We also get a sense of how strongly the mother feels about her old flame, Brian and how important today is for her, especially as she seems to have something she wants to hand over, something she has saved for many years.

This idea of her mother handing over something so treasured to her devastates Helena as she worries that this may be a sign that her mother is finally giving up and letting cancer win. However, this is not her only worry of the day. During one of the rides (Space Mountain for Disney fans), something happens to Helena that robs her of all her childhood innocence and suggests that she may finally have entered the scary, sometimes tragic world of being an adult.

This story was so touching and you can probably guess, quite hard to read at times. I’m lucky enough not to have had any of my close family succumb to cancer at this time but there’s been a scare both with myself and another person. I remember how terrifying even the thought of the deadly “C” felt so I can’t imagine how people who have actually lost their loved ones would feel reading this. However, I did also like that it was not just about cancer, it was about Helena and what she goes through at Disneyland. In a way, she loses something forever that can’t be returned and I believe this connects with fearing the potential loss of her mother which makes the experience all the more scary. I’m a bit sad that there is only one more story to go in this brilliant awe-inspiring collection, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and, for a debut collection, it’s truly an amazing piece of work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published March 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Stars Of Motown Shining Bright all about?:

Two fifteen year old girls have fallen in love with the same man and risk their friendship by both travelling to see him for an evening. However, all three end up getting a lot more than they had bargained for.

What did I think?:

I can’t describe exactly how much I love this collection of short stories, my first experience of the tour de force that is Julie Orringer’s writing. Of course as with other collections, some stories are better than others but in this particular case I think I can say that each story so far has touched me in some way as I was reading. In Stars Of Motown Shining Bright our two main female characters are fifteen year old Lucy (our narrator) and her friend Melissa. I think at school we may have all had a friend like Melissa – supremely confident, perhaps slightly arrogant and extremely emotionally manipulative. Lucy is the quieter sort who always feels a bit inferior in comparison to her friend with her fashionable clothes, general demeanour and complete assuredness in everything she does.

As the story begins, the girls are about to go on a overnight visit to see their mutual friend, Jack Jacob whom they both have a huge crush on. Lucy however is quite excited for a different reason. She feels that she has finally “got one up” on her friend as she has recently lost her virginity to Jack when he came back to their town a little while ago. Lucy can’t wait for Melissa to find out and feels immensely proud that Jack has chosen her as the girl he wants to be with. Perhaps the reader may see this coming but this is not quite the case unfortunately for poor Lucy (yes, I must always champion the underdog!).

Jack Jacob is revealed as the kind of boy you really shouldn’t be touching, even with a ten foot bargepole and, for a time, it seems like the girls will not be able to see him for the slimeball that he most definitely is. Julie Orringer really surprised me by creating a heroine in Lucy that any woman reading this short story will love (and this story could have gone a number of different ways). Lucy does so much more than hold her own though – she grows up within such a short space of time, develops serious self-respect, teaches Jack a brilliant lesson and even manages to “save” Melissa in the process.

I was slightly concerned about where the story may be going when a certain instrument in a glove compartment is mentioned and was on the edge of my seat by the dramatic finale. However, it ended in the most perfect way and should remind all young girls in close friendships that a despicable man who seems to have no concept of decency or how to treat people is not worth the risk or their precious time. There are a lot of themes in this tale which the author explores throughout the entire collection, for example, teenage sexuality, coming of age, friendships and strong, female independence, all of which Julie Orringer writes about with incredible beauty and enthusiasm. Great story, great characters, great message… more please!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

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

Published October 20, 2015 by bibliobeth

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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):

four-stars_0

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