I highly recommend this debut collection from Lydia Peelle! Each of the eight stories are equally captivating, all featuring well drawn characters caught in the bewildering headlights of personal transformation. Peelle's characters are Southern rural folks, deeply connected to the land or living close to nature and natural creatures. All of them struggle with the unbalancing effects of loss, change, and uncertainty. The radiance of her storytelling style lies partially in the way she highlights that defining moment when choices are made that prove to be life altering. Additionally, I admired and appreciated Peelle's assessment of America on the tipping point of irreversible change - the unnecessary and cheap development of our landscapes, the slipping away of traditional life ways for the sake of efficiency and production. These themes infuse her stories and shape the every day lives of her characters - ordinary people. Her fictional portraits of these individuals are breathtaking, convincing, and vivid. Reading the collection brought back that wonderful rush of happiness I get when experiencing a new first rate voice in fiction. If I had to pick one story to recommend to readers who would like to dabble, I might suggest Mule Killers, or perhaps the closing story called, Shadow on a Weary Land. But then, I really thought Sweethearts of the Rodeo was exceptional, and you would be sorry to miss the tornado scene in The Still Point. The genius storytelling of a herpetologist and his lonely young lover in the title story - Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, is not to be missed. And you really just wouldn't want to overlook, This Is Not A Love Story, or The Kidding Season. Once you undertake one, I doubt you will turn away from any of the rest. — Nancy Scheemaker
“A superlative collection of stories spanning the breadth of the American psyche. These are tales of ordinary people with questions and longings that will strike a familiar chord. Best of all, Peelle has the good sense to leave the unanswerable in its proper and distant place.”
— Roger Pantano, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
"Lydia Peelle has given us a collection of stories so artfully constructed and deeply imagined they read like classics. It marks the beginning of what will surely be a long and beautiful career." —Ann Patchett
In Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, Lydia Peelle brings together eight brilliant stories—two of which won Pushcart Prizes and one of which won an O. Henry Prize—that peer straight into the human heart. In startling and original prose, she examines lives derailed by the loss of a vital connection to the land and to the natural world of which they are a part.
Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing conveys an almost Faulknerian ache for the pre-modern South, for a landscape and a way of life lost to the ravages of money and technology.
Lydia Peelle is the author of the novel The Midnight Cool and the story collection Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing, which received an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She received her MFA from the University of Virginia and has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Ucross, Yaddo, and Ragdale. Peelle is a recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an O. Henry Prize, the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honor, and a Whiting Award, as well as the Anahid Award for Emerging Armenian-American writers. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Lydia Peelle’s lovely, fluid voice lures you into a world full of heartbreak and devastation.... calls to mind masters of the unsettling short story like Mary Gaitskill, or even Alice Munro. … [Peelle] has the makings of a writer who defies labels and creates her own categories.” — New York Times Book Review
“With humor and insight, these sharply etched fictions illuminate turning points...in lives conscribed by limited horizons.... Peelle vividly evokes a setting and brings its inhabitants...instantly and convincingly to life.” — Boston Globe
“An incredible collection of eight gorgeously crafted stories, with wonderfully drawn characters whose individual tales stay with you.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“The eight stories in Lydia Peelle’s debut collection are remarkable for their clarity and precision. . . . artful...” — BookForum
“Peelle’s acute perception of a squandered world inspires complex, suspenseful stories that celebrate life’s endless improvisation and assertion....darkly lyrical, ironic and compassionate stories...brilliant and stunning.” — Kansas City Star
“Peelle’s stories in REASONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF BREATHING carry a memory of the Southern past that we might find in a short story by Flannery O’Connor or Eudora Welty.” — BOMB Magazine
“Rock-solid prose, surprising connections, and resounding transformations add up to powerful and significant stories of improvised life in a consumed world.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Peelle writes her meaty characters with vigor and packs each tale with descriptions so subtly vibrant that they warrant multiple visits.” — Publishers Weekly
“[The stories] read like fully formed classics, as if Bob Dylan was rewriting the stories of Alice Munro. These are eight clear and precise gems, deeply rooted in Southern soil, and alive with every pore to heartbreak and possibility.” — Louisville Courier Journal