Review: Survival Skills (Stories)

Survival Skills

Survival Skills (Stories)
By Jean Ryan
(Ashland Creek Press, Paperback, 9781618220219, April 1, 2013, 212pp)

The Short of It:

This collection touches on the insecurities that exist within all of us and manages to capture the moment when happiness intersects with longing. Ryan handles both with dignity and grace.

The Rest of It:

I’ve been incredibly lucky lately when it comes to the books that end up in my hands and this collection is no exception.

First, I’ll tell you a little about the collection itself. These stories center around love and loss but particularly the moment when a person first realizes that love is waning. That moment where you know it’s over, yet you’re not willing to admit it.

What makes this collection unique, is that nearly all of this loss is the result of an accident or nature intervening in some way.

In Looks for Life, a young woman is given a new face after a car accident and the new face is so different from the one she had, that she becomes a different person.

In the Double Take, a young woman becomes infatuated with a child who resembles her own sister.

In Waiting for Annie, a woman waits for her lover to come out of a coma and while waiting, worries about how it will affect their relationship once she does.

My favorite story is Paradise, which happens to be the last story in the book. In Paradise, the relationship of two women is challenged by a parrot! One of them ends up in Palm Springs and that is probably why I loved it so much. With two sets of in-laws that own property in Palm Desert, I’ve spent many weeks observing the people in town and Ryan captured the desert lifestyle so perfectly. In fact, I am going there this week so I found it incredibly amusing to read this story right before my trip.

Years ago, I read short stories for two reasons:

  1. I was strapped for time.
  2. My attention span was all over the place.

I have changed over the years. I’ve come to appreciate the short story form and it’s because of wonderful writers like Jean Ryan. Writers that can capture a moment in time so vividly that it pains me when the story comes to an end.

This collection surprised me in a lot of ways. For one, I coud not tell right away if a story’s narrator was male or female. There are same-sex relationships in the book and so often I was surprised to find myself thinking that the story was told by a man, when in fact it’s told by a woman. The collection kept me guessing and I welcomed it.

I also appreciated the unique nature of the stories themselves. Fresh, likable characters yet ones that you could easily relate to. All of them in unique situations, questioning their place.

This collection is a treat for anyone who reads but if you’ve been in a reading rut and need a book to shake things up a little, this collection is what the doctor ordered. It will wake you up and get you thinking again. I find that I need that every once in a while.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post may contain Indiebound affiliate links.

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19 thoughts on “Review: Survival Skills (Stories)”

  1. I would like to read this collection of short stories. Who can’t identify with insecurities? New author for me is Jean Ryan. Hope I can get the book. Nice review~

  2. See, this: These stories center around love and loss but particularly the moment when a person first realizes that love is waning. That moment where you know it’s over, yet you’re not willing to admit it.” That would kill me! I couldn’t read them!

  3. The collection sounds great…have fun…I love Palm Springs…especially the old town part!

    We used to go there for Spring Break all of the time!

  4. This does sound like an extraordinary collection, and I am always looking for something that goes above and beyond when it comes to short story collections, so this sounds like it’s one for me. I love that the last story meshed so well with your travel plans, and that you had such a great overall experience with this book! Very excellent review today!

  5. Thanks, Ti, for your lovely and thoughtful review! “Paradise” is among my favorites, too, though it’s nearly impossible to choose just one favorite!

  6. I’m always in a rut! I usually use GNs to get me out of them. But I’m willing to give this a try too, assuming I’m strong enough to shoulder the sad.

  7. I’m not a fan of short stories. I get too attached to characters as it is anyway…with short stories I have to let go of them even sooner…just frustrates me :p

    1. I used to feel that way until I read some really good ones. I realized then that you can go full circle and feel satisfied if written well.

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