TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’

TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Tyler

For this review, I chose a Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary classic, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. This novel is chock-full of lovable and quirky characters that Tyler brings to life with her incredible sense of detail, descriptions of family relationships, and perfect comedic timing. 

Breathing Lessons was originally published in 1988, giving it the feel of stepping back into the retelling of a family story from that era. Maggie, the main character, is like a warm, crazy aunt who wants to meddle in everyone’s life, but of course doesn’t see her actions that way at all. She is intent upon reuniting her adult son, Jesse, with his ex-wife Fiona and daughter Leroy. Maggie’s husband, Ira, is supportive, but more level headed than Maggie and along for the ride. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Breathing Lessons

“Just once in your life, Maggie, I wish you would manage not to stick your nose in what doesn’t concern you.” “And if I didn’t, who would?” she asked him. (Part 2, Chapter 1) 

“It was amazing, Ira often said, how people fooled themselves into believing what they wanted to. (How Maggie fooled herself, he meant.) He said it when Maggie threatened to sue the Police Department that time they charged Jesse with Drunk and Disorderly. He said it when she swore that Spin the Cat sounded better than the Beatles. And he said it again when she refused to accept that Fiona was gone for good.” (Part 2, Chapter 2) 

“They were one of those happily childless young couples with eyes for only each other, and no doubt they were returning from dinner in a restaurant and now would…do what? Put on some romantic music, maybe something with violins, and sit conversing graciously on their spotless white loveseat, each raising a wine glass made of that thin, extra-breakable crystal that doesn’t even have a lip around the rim. Or maybe they would dance.” (Part 3, Chapter 4) 

Breathing Lessons is a great read that is fun, poignant, and manages to respect each of the characters in the book and his or her individual strengths and foibles. As a novel from the 1980s, it also has the advantage of being available for free from your local library app (or can be found for next to nothing used — bonus!). 

I highly recommend that you add it to your “to read” list of fiction. Enjoy! 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

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