Short story “Turbulence” was written by David Szalay and published in 2018. Photo from Amazon.com.

Short stories get a lot of flack, and I really don’t know why. 

Sure, no one is actively complaining about short stories in my inner circle, but it is rare to hear about someone invested in a compilation of tiny narratives that are gone the minute you start getting into the plot. 

Certainly, I just named one obvious disadvantage for short stories, but I’ve always kind of loved their purpose and the sheer complexity of them. Everyone prides themselves on having so much to say, but it takes real skill and knowledge to be able to put together a well-written story in much fewer words.

I think most people associate short stories with high school English classes, which I can also agree with. I certainly read my fair share of Flannery O’Connor in my teenage years, but that is not to say I didn’t enjoy them. Short stories are a genre of book that fly under the radar, and no one really ever gravitates towards them specifically. We all go for the long-winded romance novels or 12-book crime thriller series, but there’s so much more than those in your local library.

I’m going to say it: trust me and try reading a short story sometime soon. I took a chance on one this summer and it really paid off. I’m back in the short story game, and I know you won’t regret it either. 

During a terrible heat wave in July, when I felt like I had been stuck in my home state of Massachusetts for much too long, while also finally coming to terms with the fact that my summer trip abroad really wasn’t going to happen due to COVID-19, I went to my library to get a new book in an effort to lift my spirits. 

What I ended up leaving with was the 121-page book “Turbulence” by David Szalay. Szalay is not someone I had read before, but the cover caught my attention, as well as the title. 

The book is told through connecting flights from airports all around the world; it is a set of stories based upon departures, arrivals and the journey of traveling throughout the world.

Each chapter is only about 10 pages. You meet a new protagonist every chapter and many parts the characters’ lives ultimately converge throughout. Every 10 pages is filled with both drama and joy, each being an emotional ride for these new characters.

I should make a disclaimer, however, that you really have to know airport abbreviations to understand the gravity of the read, or at least have enough dedication to look them all up as you go. 

I finished “Turbulence” in a matter of a few interrupted hours, and I loved it, if that isn’t already clear. The stories were woven together expertly and the brevity of it made it a really appealing read. 

It really cured my travel bug too, and introduced me to a new genre of travel fiction and writing. The comfort I had in being reminded of pleasant travel memories was something I had been searching for for so long. While I would have loved to have gone on my trip to Europe with all my friends, this did the job in the interim. 

In this time where we’re all still stuck at home, consider picking up this Szalay book to remind you of all the magic that can happen in an airport. Or, if travel writing isn’t your style, consider trying another short story next time you’re looking for a quick read! It may not be your initial choice, but once you start, you’ll really get it.