Thursday, May 07, 2020

The benefits of breathing by Christopher Meeks (Review and giveaway)

No.of pages : 386
Publisher : White Whisker books
Expected release date : May 23, 2020
Book links : Goodreads Amazon
Author links : Goodreads Twitter Website Facebook

About the author 


Award winning author, Christopher Meeks has five novels and two collections of short fiction published. The Benefits of Breathing’ is his third collection of short stories.

He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections "Months and Seasons" and "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea." Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, "Who Lives?" had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.

Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design. He lives in Pasadena, CA.



My review

The benefits of breathing written by author Christopher Meeks has 11 extraordinary short stories that are unique with overwhelmingly impressive plots. These are skilfully woven tales, portraying intricate emotions of human nature at its best and at its worst. 


Each short stories centres around relationship issues. People mess up in life  barely could they manage to cut themselves some slack. All is not fair in this challenging saga where there is no blueprint for success and everlasting happiness, joy and peace of mind. Black and white aptly suits human life.


We all are aware that none of the life stories we have heard, read or seen is flawless. Figuratively, our story is nowhere close to ideal. Stresses exist in life, in all relationships. Life , after all is a tough nut to crack. Unforeseen scenarios distracts us from savouring the blessings prevailing. The benefits of breathing may evoke nostalgia in some of you. 


Unequivocably intense, I am finding it laborious to express my thoughts clearly and concisely. Majority of his short stories are of people whose life is complex and love unrequited. 

A short summary of the stories 


Joni Parades- This is a story of a 38 year old introverted woman who petrifies at the thought of commitment with a wrong guy. She meets a practical, down-to-earth extroverted man at her young daughter's wedding. Is he the one for her? Be prepared for an unpredicted disappointment.


Nestor by the number-In this story, Nestor , a recently separated man from his wife, finally embraces the truth by his counsellor that he needs to start seeing women who could light up his world. He is cautious of fake women. Did he find his soul mate? May be.


You wreck me, baby- Javier O'Hara is going through a difficult phase in his life. His partner moved out and bad luck, his health deteriorates. He has things to fuss about. Would his life ever become normal?


Moxie- Martin is in unfamiliar territory. Samantha, his sweetheart calls it quits after their years of togetherness. How could seeing a marriage counsellor help when the love of his life doesn't have the intention to reunite? His world shatters hearing the mystifying truth, his wife who he cared all these years hid in her heart to protect herself and her daughter. Is selfishness part of the package to love? What happened to the old fashioned love with no strings attached?


A dog story- Dan and Chelsea are soon going to be exes. They have a teenage daughter, 'Hope' and a dog, 'Scrappy'. How will their legal separation affect these two who are part of their universe? Dan's shocking revelation about his new found lover has the effect of turning Chelsea's life upside down. Chelsea's rough on the exterior and her good heart can handle any storm that may come her way. 


I'd rather die than go to North Dakota- Ayako is a Japanese lady with a six year old daughter. She is a waitress by profession living with her American partner at the moment. Due to the high cost of living, he wants to move to North Dakota with her and his step daughter, Kelly. Ayako' s I'd rather die than go to North Dakota refuses to budge to his wishes. Finally, what strikes her?


The benefits of breathing- Ray is a 90 year old man living happy and healthy. His children , grand children and great grandchildren spice up his mundane life. What does a man counting his days actually feel?


Incident on South Cecilia- This story had me thinking deeply. Trevor and Carrie had hit the five year mark in their marriage. They are seeing a counsellor to make their relationship survive. On a fateful day, he sees a young lady terribly beaten up by a cruel man. Trevor, being a true gentleman fuming with rage gives the assaulter, a taste of his own blood. It though backfires.Trevor learns a tough lesson. What is it?


A Warm Front Appears to be Moving from California and Deep into Minnesota- Summer hails from a strong musical family. Sexually abused as a child by her mom's so called friends, she is desperate to settle down with her boyfriend, Reed and hopes of enjoying a secure relationship. Does he really want her or is it just a fling?Alas! Her eyes open to the reality after a sweet encounter with a stranger, her father's age.


Jerry with a twist- Jerry has a stable job that pays him enough. Since his acting skills are good, he aspires to become a successful actor. Cheryl, his understanding girlfriend who is pregnant with his child, motivates him and supports his quest for fame. Would his dream become reality? What is life anyway?


7 truths about love- Melissa and her estranged husband Roy , doesn't want much from each other. He cheated on her with her boss. Ever since that her 2 year old daughter is the only drug which pushes her forward in life. Will Melissa take revenge on her husband for betraying her trust and ridiculing her devotion? Will cupid's arrow hit her heart again? Will she realize all men are not same and change her perspective? 7 truths about love is a poignant story that felt real but I don't agree with author's version of what is love. Everyone is entitled to their own truths about love. 


I found the 11 stories realistic. Honestly, what's hidden in it is a hidden gem. Constantly changing planet earth has surprises in store for us every nook and corner we turn. Without it, our life would be dull and monotonous. Rising to the challenges of every day life sharpens us and makes our life worthwhile. No man or woman can be called wholesome if they shy away from hurdles and refuse to take part. Swimming in the ocean of dare is wise but one mustn't sink due to sloppiness or cowardry.


Overall, I admire the author's writing style. The flow of the words are naturally good and the narrative is ultra clean.  Though perfectionism may not be the right word to describe the author's work, what is best about the book is the complete realism with the lack of exaggeration in it. His gift of the gab is majestic. I tell this only after reading his collection of short stories which he has written like a pro consisting of no major glitch. I recommend his book to lovers of cotemporary fiction. On a sidenote, whoever designed the book cover, I give a thumps up because undeniably I found it vouching for a meaningful read. 


Rating 4.5/5


Excerpt from 7 TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE


Physicists know about potential energy. A rock balancing on the edge of a roof has much potential energy. So does a person rejected in love.


Melissa heard a rustling in the bushes just after Roy, her estranged husband, left the doorstep of her rented West Covina, California, house on Christmas morning. He had stopped by to give a gift, a stuffed bear, to their little girl. 


Melissa waited until she heard his car drive off before going to investigate. 


“Where Mama going?” said two-year-old Steph. “Where Daddy?”


“Daddy’s gone. I’m just getting the mail, honey. Stay here.”


Melissa spotted the Christmas wrapping in the bushes first, then the forty-ounce bag of Starbucks coffee she’d given him as a nice gesture. So much for that. The more she thought of it, though, it pissed her off. He was the one to have an affair with her boss, the young Mrs. Tananger. Despite his denials—oh, there was much evidence, such as his trip to Catalina Island and the empty condom wrapper in his pocket—Melissa moved herself, her daughter, and most of the furniture out one day. They moved into the house she had rented while he was at work. He had yelled into his cellphone at her when he came home, demanding they come back, which only confirmed she’d made the right decision.

Roy taught English at Mt. San Antonio College in the nearby town of Walnut. Melissa worked in the college’s IT department, which is how she’d met Roy, fixing his desktop computer. At their wedding, Roy met her boss, Brooke Tananger, and Brooke’s husband.
A year after Roy and Melissa married, Melissa gave birth to Stephanie. While Melissa was nursing, he was off with his new friend, Brooke Tananger, hiking on one of their many excursions. “It’s just hiking,” he would say. “You don’t like to do it.” 
That’s when the affair began, Melissa had guessed. She complained to Human Resources that her boss was bonking her husband. The director did nothing. However, everyone in IT knew about Brooke and Roy. The days rolled by. When H.R. did nothing about Brooke and Roy, Melissa quit her job and moved. She found a better job keeping the PCs running at Cal State L.A. Brooke, that bitch, divorced and moved in with Roy. Roy divorced Melissa. Melissa’s gift to Roy, coffee, was her trying to accept everything.

Now she was really mad. Her heart beat rapidly and her hands shook. How could she get him back for ruining her life? She’d thought of how he had complained about her cats, that she had been a crazy cat lady, and he had insisted her cats become outdoor ones. One by one, they were eaten by coyotes. When he was angry with her, he would clean his rifle in the easy chair facing her in front of the bed. She wished he could feel just as helpless and intimidated as she had. 


Then it struck her. She’d heard of something on the radio called swatting—very illegal. It was calling the police falsely to say someone had a gun and was pointing it at someone. The SWAT team then might bash in the door and show up, guns drawn. Just the thought of Roy being startled and holding up his arms to a team of police pointing guns at him made her smile. 


Love is like a great Hollandaise sauce. Cooking it right is in the details.


Melissa had to be careful and not get caught, especially since Roy would claim she must have done the swatting. She reconsidered. She could lose custody of Stephanie doing something like this. 

Her brain offered, “How about I use a payphone?” That could work. But where were payphones anymore? The Shell station on Palmetto Avenue had one, she remembered, not far from his house that he now shared with the newly divorced Brooke Tananger. Melissa had to do this. She knew Roy thought of her as weak. She would be weak no more.

At her next gas-up, she used the Shell station, and she casually looked around. She spotted a camera focused on the pumps. The payphone would be in the deep background—a risky thing. Better not do it.

Two days later, a Saturday, Melissa took Stephanie to a Goodwill store to buy her bigger clothes. Steph was growing so fast, and Roy wasn’t giving her any money for her care. In fact, in the coming week, they had to go to court to battle over that issue, and he wanted joint custody. At Goodwill, she spotted a dark red hoodie with USC emblazoned on the chest. A hoodie…
That night, with Stephanie in her child seat in the center of the back seat, Melissa parked her car in the back of the Shell station and said, “Mama will be right back.” She walked toward the front, drawing up the hood of her USC hoodie. There on the side of the station, before she got in range of the camera, she took a few deep breaths and ran in place as fast as she could so she’d be short of breath. Then she ran quickly to the phone, as if she’d been running for blocks on adrenaline. The sign next to it said an emergency call to 911 was free. She dialed 911.

“Nine one one,” said a female operator. 


“What is your emergency?”


She spit out in a higher voice than usual, “My husband tried to shoot me! I ran out, but he has a gun! My mother and daughter are there! Please help!”


“What kind of gun?”


“What kind of gun? Really? It’s long. With bullets.”


“What is the address, ma’am?”


Melissa gave Roy’s address. The operator said to please hold, but Melissa said no, she’s going back. She hung up and ran back to her car.


“Where did you go, Mama?” said Stephanie, content in her seat.


“I just needed change.”


“What’s change?”


“Money. We needed different money,” Melissa said, and started the car. 


Disclaimer I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review 


a Rafflecopter giveaway




3 comments:

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed 'The Benefits of Breathing'! I love all of Christopher Meeks short stories and novels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He is a great writer. I don't doubt it.😊

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