Danika reviews Survival Skills by Jean Ryan

1 I have found an odd thing about writing reviews: I tend to find it a lot easier to describe what I don’t like about a book than what I do. If I put down a book that I hated, I can very easily write a review detailing every flaw. But it’s a lot harder to explain why a book appeals to me. So although I really liked Survival Skills, I’m not sure I can properly convey it!

Survival Skills is a collection of short stories, and it is one of those quietly beautiful books. The stories flow naturally, and although they do not end tied in a neat bow, they don’t feel abrupt, which I have found often happens in short story collections. There is a mix of lesbian and straight protagonists in this collection, but I definitely recommend reading them all.

I understood this collection even better when I looked at the publisher: Ashland Creek Press describes itself as a publisher with a “mission to publish a range of books that foster an appreciation for worlds outside our own, for nature and the animal kingdom, and the ways in which we all connect.” I hadn’t considered it until after reading the publisher’s blurb, but Survival Skills does include a theme of nature. Throughout the stories, pets feature prominently, or a character chases hurricanes, or a woman finds herself competing with an octopus (or a parrot) for her girlfriend’s affections. This isn’t completely overbearing, but it does offer a thread throughout the collection. It also seemed to ground the stories; it made the problems seem less overwhelming when the stories kept coming back to other living things, fitting these stories into a larger network. But it is the human struggles that are focused on, with nature as a backdrop.

Mostly, I liked Survival Skills so much because the writing style really appealed to me. Usually I can tell within the first page or two whether I will enjoy an author’s style or have to slog through it. With this one, I immediately wanted to settle in and read more, and I put Jean Ryan’s novel, Lost Sister, on my to read list as soon as I finished Survival Skills. Needless to say, I highly recommend this one.

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5 thoughts on “Danika reviews Survival Skills by Jean Ryan

  1. Something about the way you describe this book really makes me want to read it! I know what you mean when you say sometimes it’s so hard to put into words why you love a certain book. I feel that way about Anne Fleming’s writing. How did you hear about this book?

    1. I’m glad that I somehow convinced you! I do find myself stumbling over trying to review really good books for some reason. And your review made me want to read Anne Fleming’s books! This one was (luckily!) submitted for review.

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