Air and Other Stories
Written by Lauren Leja
Review by Jarad Johnson
This is a little novella of stories that has been looking at me and begging to be read since the summer, and inevitably it got passed over for one book or another. Every reader is constantly trudging through a stack of books, a pile that never gets any smaller. In any case, I am glad that I picked it up this afternoon. My first reaction upon reading it is that Leja packs more feeling and emotion into fifty pages than many authors do in a hundred. I kept coming back to the word raw when I sat here trying to figure out what I wanted to say about this little book. I can tell she’s a good writer, because I was immediately drawn into the world she created around these four stories. It was easy and effortless to be in the book, so to speak. I could feel the underlying tension of throughout the book, that of a teenager feeling adrift in the world and craving attention and finding it in strange places. When kids want attention like that, especially when they have absent parents such as in this book, they behave recklessly, and I definitely saw that in the book. (in one instance the main character allows herself to be buried alive, and remarkably survives). We get a glimpse into a mind that is searching for meaning and acceptance, and finding none, decided to create some of its own.
I recognized this person, actually. I encountered people like her all throughout high school, and my mom (who manages social work cases) deals with people like this almost daily. People who simultaneously want to numb the world and inhale all of it. Children, really, who have no aspirations or dreams, who wanted to escape their reality through whatever means possible. Because of that familiarity, this was on the edge of uncomfortable for me to read. I think that’s the intention though. The main character is, in my opinion, in a constant state of being uncomfortable, and the reader picks up on that. I pictured the setting to be a small town, and though that may not have been what the author intended, that is what I saw and recognized. Furthermore, while perhaps you could glean some larger meaning or message from parts of the stories, I really don’t think that is what it’s supposed to be about. I automatically look for overarching themes or messages throughout a book, and I think this is more about telling a story and providing a look into the mind of a troubled person.
While I didn’t expect to be hit with such a heavy topic today, I am still glad to have read it, if nothing else for the excellent writing, which I always appreciate. I’m definitely going to be on the look out for more from this author!
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is an English major. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!