The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie Sypolt

Posted December 27, 2018 by Jess C. in book reviews / 2 Comments

The Sound of Holding Your Breath by Natalie SypoltThe Sound of Holding Your Breath: Stories by Natalie Sypolt
Published by West Virginia University Press on October 1, 2018
ISBN: 1946684570
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 156
Source: WVU Press

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The residents of The Sound of Holding Your Breath could be neighbors, sharing the same familiar landscapes of twenty-first-century Appalachia—lake and forest, bridge and church, cemetery and garden, diner and hair salon. They could be your neighbors—average, workaday, each struggling with secrets and losses, entrenched in navigating the complex requirements of family in all its forms.

Yet tragedy and violence challenge these unassuming lives: A teenage boy is drawn to his sister’s husband, an EMT searching the lake for a body. A brother, a family, and a community fail to confront the implications of a missing girl. A pregnant widow spends Thanksgiving with her deceased husband’s family. Siblings grapple with the death of their sister-in-law at the hands of their brother. And in the title story, the shame of rape ruptures more than a decade later.

Accidents and deaths, cons and cover-ups, abuse and returning veterans—Natalie Sypolt’s characters wrestle with who they are during the most trying situations of their lives.

I received this book for free from WVU Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts:

I’m going to try my best, but I’m not sure that I can actually put into words how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories.

First, I need to make a confession… I don’t normally bother with anthologies or short story collections. I generally prefer a novella or full-length novel because most short stories just feel too… well, short. But, the description of The Sound of Holding Your Breath made me feel compelled to read it. I’m super glad I did!

Every story caused me to stop and think about what I’d just read. The characters are so “real” that I felt connected to them, as if I knew them and their pain, joy, heartache, and reflections were my own.

These aren’t exactly feel good stories, but they aren’t necessarily dark and twisty either (although some could be described that way). My favorites were definitely “Flaming Jesus,” “My Brothers and Me” and “The Sound of Holding Your Breath.” Every story is complicated and sucks you in to the small town Appalachia families they portray. Every family is different, but somehow the same. With struggles, hopes, dreams, failures, and fears.

The characters are all so complex that even they seem to be struggling with who they are and who they’re going to be. I found myself asking at the end of more than one story, was that character good or bad? Would I go that far in the same situation?

I read Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” for the first time not too long ago. To be honest (and I realize this is a very unpopular opinion), but I wasn’t impressed. I had a hard time connecting with the characters, the stories were at times dull and lost my attention. Basically, it was as far away from what I’d been told to expect as it could possibly get.

But Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath was everything I wanted Winesburg, Ohio to be. While there isn’t a central character in The Sound of Holding Your Breath, and the stories all take place in different towns, they could have easily all taken place in the same community. Where Winesburg left me depressed, TSOHYB left me with hope and a feeling that things could still get better.

I know I didn’t do justice to how much I loved these stories and how insightful they are, but I tried… some feelings are just beyond I words, I guess.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend picking this book up!! Let me know what you think in the comments below!


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