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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

March 27, 2005

Here's a good litmus test to show how good a book like "Breathing Lessons" is--nothing extraordinary happens and yet I did not want to put the book down. There are no conspiracies to rule the world or cover up some dark secret. There are no car chases, explosions, sex scenes (barely even any kissing), or exotic locations. No one changes or has an epiphany. Almost NOTHING happens--Maggie and Ira go to a funeral and when they come back they try to reunite their son and former daughter-in-law but nothing changes at all. To the average reader this book probably would seem really dull. Heck, if someone told me the plot of this book I'd think it was really dull too, but I didn't want to put it down.

The reason is that Maggie and Ira are so well-drawn and so familiar to me that they seem like people I know or COULD know. I think I could go to the supermarket and run into Maggie and Ira, that's how real they seemed to me. I suppose ther reason is that Tyler allows me as the reader to know just about everything regarding these two characters and their two personalities just come through so transparently in the story that they don't seem like CHARACTERS acting their parts; they seem like real people.

Because of this, even though very little happens to Maggie or Ira and even though neither of them changes by the end of the book, I cared so much about them that I wanted to keep reading right through the end so I breezed through the novel in a few days. In all honesty, what I really appreciate about this book is that it seemingly disproves almost everything I've ever read about how to write a book. This is purely a character-driven novel with very little "plot" except for the death of Maggie's friend's husband that gets the ball rolling. Everything else seems to happen so naturally as an extension of Maggie's personality more than any artificially-generated plot twists.

It's hard for me to find any real faults with this book, except for the lengthy flashback near the end that perhaps goes on too long. Some people may call this boring or dull, but I would call it purely exceptional. I LOVED this book and highly recommend it.

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