Cherie Reads

Review: A Field Guide to Awkward Silences by Alexandra Petri

A Field Guide to Awkward Silences - Alexandra Petri

I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction, and I especially don’t read a lot of short stories or essays. I usually find myself bored and missing an overarching plot-line. This book is an exception. I loved it. Alexandra Petri writes a series of essays chronicling the strange and awkward situations she gets herself into. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, entirely relateable and even thought-provoking.

"Like anyone growing up after 1980, I always had the dim, nagging sense that I was supposed to be famous for something. A certain measure of fame just seems like our birthright these days, next to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Food, shelter, Wi-Fi, and the sense that someone’s watching; these are the modern requirements for survival. The only thing more terrifying than the feeling you’re being watched is the feeling that you’re not. Privacy is just an uncomfortable reminder that you’re not a celebrity."

I am a shy person and the idea of putting myself out there – auditioning for Top Model or going on national television to compete on Jeopardy! makes me ill just thinking about it. I hate being in awkward social situations and go out of my way to avoid them. I do not enjoy meeting new people. Alexandra is my complete opposite. She puts herself out there risking embarrassment and ultimate humiliation just so that she’ll have something interesting to write about. Her experiences are hilarious and many times cringe worthy.

"I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted to kiss you through the mesh of a Jabba the Hutt suit, but it is definitely a unique experience. Let’s just say it’s impossible to make any headway. For better results, you could try to tongue-kiss a fully-dressed beekeeper."

Her writing style invites you into her head to experience all the emotions and anxieties that she did. The book reads like she’s your best friend and she’s relating her newest crazy experience to you. That makes the book so relatable. She doesn’t gloss things over and that makes her stories all the more real to the reader.

Despite her repeated humiliations, she offers a perspective on life that is inspiring. Who cares how silly you look? Who cares what the person watching you might think? If there’s something you want to do, do it! You just might become a pun star, or even a whistling champion. While humorous, her essays are also introspective and insightful without being preachy or pretentious.

"I suppose the strange selectivity of memory is half its charm. Our lives are burning houses, and we come running out with whatever we can carry."

Overall, I very much enjoyed this collection of essays. I laughed out loud throughout and she gave me some food for thought as well. This would be a fantastic beach read or palate cleanser between “heavier” reads. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Petri in the future.