Survival Skills: Stories, by Jean Ryan, is a collection of 13 fictional short stories. While the stories each have unique characters and plots, they all share the theme of survival, in one form or another. Survival doesn’t necessarily mean physical safety, as in surviving illness or an accident. As Ryan eloquently portrays in each poignant story, surviving and thriving is an individual experience, with different requirements for everyone.
Sometimes survival does literally means hanging onto life by a thread, and other times it means figuring out what it takes to make it through the dark tunnel of grief, or the pain of a broken heart. Sometimes it means realizing when it’s time to move on and create a new path for the future.
The main character in each of the 13 stories is dealing with a personal struggle of survival. Each struggle is very different, but nonetheless, the characters share a certain will to persevere. Humans are biologically wired to strive to endure hardship and adversity, one way or another. Emotional subsistence is second only to maintaining physical life. If situations, events, and other people interfere with our well-being, how we deal with those variables will directly impact the quality of our lives.
Ryan gently examines her characters and lays them out for the reader to love and protect. Her stories invite introspection and an encouragement toward empathy. The people seem real, like strangers chatting you up in a waiting room and sharing a little more than is customary and comfortable; making you squirm a little to be the recipient of such random confidence. The details are lifelike and believable.
The stories were wrapped up neatly enough to satiate my curiosity without leaving me hanging, and I loved each one. This is a perfect collection for readers who don’t have time to devote to an entire novel, as a story or two can easily be read in a short sitting.
Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jean Ryan. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.