Cover Image: The Benefits of Breathing

The Benefits of Breathing

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Member Reviews

The Benefits of Breathing a collection of short stories written by Christopher Meeks. The stories are incredibly wise and mostly talk about human relationships. 

I love how the author brings out amazing endings to each story with simple and wise thoughts. Every story is a masterpiece. The simplicity of these stories is amazing. The reader will connect to at least one of these stories while reading this book. There are stories of a father and a daughter, a broken marriage, a fragile relationship between girlfriend and boyfriend, an online dating experience, and a few more. Love is so important for us that we crave for it in any relationship and that love is the key in each story of this book.

Though this is the first book I have read penned by this author, I immediately fell in love with his writing style. There is a subtle bluntness in the stories that hit hard and make us relate to the realities of life. The title of this book made me pick it and it was totally worth it. All in all, this book is beautiful and intense in a funny way. Now, I want to read the other works of this author.

The book is available on all platforms and the audiobook is also available if you would prefer to listen to it.

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The Benefits of Breathing by Christopher Meeks, 24 May, 2020

Short stories are difficult beasts. While many people write them, very few write them well. Hemingway and, of course, Carver were masters, but so too was P.G. Wodehouse and, in his earlier days, Ian McEwan. To use a more mercantile measure, the average collection of short stories in the U.K. sells about 800 copies; most are published in literary journals where they languish.

So this collection from Christopher Meeks, most already published in literary journals, was a good find because a single short story from an author only informs that author’s skill by luck. While, for example, Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants has become a fixture of literary classes, and most of those written by him during the Spanish Civil War leave an impression, some of the hunting ones are almost embarrassing: when Hemingway was good, he was very good, but he was not always so.

This is a collection of eleven (why not a round dozen, I wonder!) stories which all concern romantic love. This is a subject that I haven’t encountered very often in shorts and which I actively avoid in novels: that I finished the collection at all was enough of a surprise; that I enjoyed it astonished me. 

That already attests to Meeks skill as a writer. With the single exception of the first story – where I struggled – each story captured and held my attention. They concerned interesting characters and the situations were just far enough out of the quotidian that the stories didn’t become banal.  

The characterisation was done by showing, not telling: "Chelsea rummaged in her big leather bag for her keys. She worried she might chip her freshly painted red nails. The nail salon had been a treat for herself. Small things helped." This tells us a lot about Chelsea in a very few short sentences: she has a big leather bag so like to carry a lot of stuff, but that stuff isn’t organised so she has to rummage to find things. Her nails have been painted as a treat and she is careful to keep her little treat. And the last sentence is an understated hint that things are not all well.

And, in another: "He hated her subtle power plays. To prove that he wouldn’t fall into that trap, he walked across the street to the shade. He paralleled her movements eastward on his side of the street." Again, in a few short sentences, we see the protagonist is in a relationship where each struggles to dominate, but both are passive-aggressive in their responses – to the extent that he ends up stalking his own partner.

This one stuck in my mind: "“Oh,” said Jerry, looking more closely, noticing the boy with longish blond hair had the same infuriating cowlick on his crown as he had had as a kid, like an exploding dandelion." It made me laugh.

The scene-setting is also pulled off well, with enough to be useful without so much as to intrude: "Nestor walked with a bounce in his step past a bougainvillea bursting with red flowers. He stepped into the park, onto a flat grassy field, moving toward a circle of tall trees. His goal: the majestic oak at the front."

And "They were one unit, and when they curved one way, they became grey pixels. These birds did what they were meant to do. As the doves swooped around, the sunlight caught them, and for a moment, they were an arrowhead, all white."

And, finally: "Arabella waved to Nestor, more like heiling Hitler than a happy hello” " Which also made me smile.

All authors lay bare their souls when writing, but shorts allow no place to hide and curating your own stories can flay you as well. I did notice that three of the stories pivoted on the same device of slipping and falling on a slippery something on the ground, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory turned up more often than I would have expected, and there was a lot of film history. There was also a bourgeois feel to the stories: we had none of the gritty and alcoholic poverty of Carver, nor the sunny blue skies of English fairy-tale-aristocracy of Wodehouse. 

Set those gripes to one side. I set myself a quota of five star reviews; this collection makes the grade.
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Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If this anthology of short stories had a sound track, it would be ‘Elenor Rigby. All those lonely people. Some find love and throw it away, some are so bitter that when love arrives they don’t see it, some are always looking for something better, some don’t find the love they deserve ( at least in the portion told in the story)
As I read each story, I found I quickly took a side- She’s a jerk, he deserves better, or he doesn’t see what he has, always wants something better. And Arggh what is she doing- why is she sabotaging everything ???. And a number of stories pertain to death.
Reading these stories was like listening to friend tell you their marriage troubles, and while you may be on their side sometimes, there is a quiet voice saying- wow this isn’t ALL his fault. She’s horrible to him. And they don’t take your advice.
What the stories all say : Dude, your wife is unhappy, and is thinking of leaving you. If you aren’t actively wooing each other, you are headed to divorce. A lack of fights, but quietness equals thinking of leaving. And finally, she IS too young for you. 
I’m a hopeless romantic , and always want the happy ending, which most of these don’t have. Still, I found the stories riveting, and read the whole thing in a day. If you like drama, and  raw realities of lost love, you will enjoy this book.
On a side note- I did like all of the LA references, and will need to try some of the places mentioned.
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This was an engrossing collection of short stories that prompts the reader to think about the nature of relationships. Meeks' writing style is stunning and kept me hooked from beginning to end of every story.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book. I love short stories when they are written well. In my opinion, it takes a truly talented author to be able to pull of a good selection of short stories. You must be able to make the reader feel emotion, understand the story, bond with characters, etc but in a very short amount of words. So, yes....that takes talent. Meeks is a brilliant author able to pull this off wonderfully. Highly recommend.
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Look, this has got to be one of the best short story collections I have read in a while and you cannot help but traverse the world of emotions through his stories on love, romance and divorce...and what's great is that you relate to the characters at each turn.
Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.
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First I have to say that I am a huge fan of Christopher Meeks. I have loved all of his short stories and novels. So, when I heard he was publishing another short story collection, I jumped for joy!

‘The Benefits of Breathing are 11 short stories about love, romance, relationships, and divorce. The way the stories are ordered made perfect sense and make the stories flow from one to the next very well and add to the enjoyment.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Christopher Meeks is a master in the art of writing short stories. In short 11-20 pages, he is able to accomplish what most writers would need an entire novel to get their story across. He has done so with his trademark humor and quirky characters, as well as his keen observation of the human condition.

I love all 11 stories but if I was forced to pick a favorite ‘Joni Paredes’ would be it. I could relate to this character so much. She has a hard time making a commitment. I was married at 20 and divorced two years later. After that I dated a lot and even had a couple 4-6 months relationships but as soon as they guy started talk of moving in or marrying, that was it, I severed ties. It wasn’t until I met my husband Bill at the age of 30 that I met my match. We took it slow and lived together for a year before he even hinted at marriage. It seemed the Joni finally met her match but she ended up running. I’m so glad I took a different path; it just took me awhile to trust myself and a man again. Were coming up to our 25th anniversary in June. Other favorite stories are ‘A Dog Story’ and ‘You Wreak Me Baby’.

If you don’t like short stories, I challenge you to read this collection! Short stories are special, in the hands of the right author. It is a true art form and Meeks always gets it right! Meeks comes out swinging from the first story! I cannot recommend this collection highly enough!
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This short story collection about various stages of relationships was beautifully written!  This is the first thing that I have read from this author and now I am going to go read more of his work!
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