How to Breathe Underwater, Julie Orringer This, the first book written by Orringer, is an excellent collection of original short stories, concentrating mostly on the young and the difficulties they have coming of age as teens or young adults. The problems they face are unique and the way that they approach them determines an outcome that will probably haunt them in some way throughout the rest of their lives. The author seems to have entered the heads of her characters and their stories seem more real than fiction. Every story is rewarding, in some way. It is so refreshing today, to read a story that might contain sex, but is not about sex, that might have a foul word or two, but only if the words are there for a purpose rather than shock value. It is heartening to read about subjects that are not really political or biased or trapped in the PC culture of our modern times. Because it was written just over a decade and a half ago, there is no gender bias or confusion, little racism, and no hate for law enforcement. There is no call for resistance to the powers that be. There is racism, and there is cruelty, but it is managed well and with morality. It is not offensive. Best of all, politics does not invade every story with the author’s personal view. Each piece that the author has written imparts a value lesson which is largely absent in today’s literature and in today’s daily life with the proliferation of social media and the need for so many to have fifteen minutes of fame and to learn all in a sound bite. This book was written in a more peaceful, or perhaps a more stable time, yet the subject matter covered would not be described as peaceful. Most of the stories are dark, and some are depressing, but they all end with a bit of a hopeful outlook since they move on into a future that is somewhat successful. Problems are resolved either positively or negatively, but they are resolved in a palatable way. The readers are left with the task of thoughtfully ending each story for themselves. The unwed mother raises her child, the conflicted teen figures out the right thing to do to help a friend, courage overcomes weakness, the missing child turns up, devastating loss is coped with in ways that carry the characters forward, few actually die during the story (that largely occurs before or in our imaginations later on), but the idea of death is front and center in some stories, religious confusion and intolerance are worked through discretely, without causing resentment, really poor decisions are recognized and acted upon correctly before they go completely awry. The intuitive approach of the author is detailed and authentic. She knows her characters and their problems intimately. Her insight makes them feel like they are real and not made up out of whole cloth. Even the most bizarre or reckless of the stories has plausibility. They do not seem to be fiction, but rather more like mini memoirs. As the author touches children’s innate cruelty, people’s innate bigotry, teens innate jealousy, loss, illness, jealousy, anger, divorce, cruelty, kindness, and so much more in just a handful of stories, she analyzes the stuff of real life, the pain, the pleasure, the loss, the gain, the heartache, the frustration and the helplessness we all sometimes feel. Yet, in each story, there is a resolution that prevents catastrophe. In each story, no one is painted into a corner without an escape route, and most often, the escape route is chosen well. This book is well worth the read. Put it in on the nightstand and read one or two a night!