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