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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler



Breathing Lessons centers around a husband and wife who attend the funeral of a friend they've known since high school. Their road trip and eventual reconnecting to many of their high school buddies, allows us to get to know more about who they are and what they are like. Like many couples who have been married for a long period of time, Maggie and Ira struggle with aging, strained relationships with their son and daughter-in-law, and a long distance relationship with their granddaughter. They've also fallen into a life of dull routine, little romance and lack luster existence.

The central figure, Maggie is scatter brained and impulsive. Like many wife/mothers, she wants to have her children and grandchildren close. But this less than ideal set up--Maggie and Ira's son's greatest aspirations are to make it big with his rock band. But when he gets his girlfriend pregnant that quickly unravels.

Determined to salvage the relationship, Maggie gets involved and keeps his girlfriend from having an abortion, then they help raise their grandchild until the relationship hits the rocks again and she moves away with the granddaughter.

The dysfunction of the family is painful. Maggie can't seem to let it go and she creates her own reality by imagining relationships as they could be, and then taking manipulative steps to try to make it happen. But nothing goes as planned.  She seems to grate on everyone's nerves, especially mine and I found her hard to like.

Tyler has created very real circumstances I am sure many married couples face. And her point seems to be that the heart's desire of every mother is for unity and love to exist in the home and extend out to the next generations. Unfortunately, many relationships are exactly as she describes them-painful and less than ideal.

I must admit that I had a difficult time finishing this book because I did not like Maggie, the main character. She's more annoying than a fly in a closed room. Couple that with circumstances are that very real and depressing. Who wants to read about ordinary people in mundane and drab existences.  This one of the less enjoyable reads I've had in a while. I give it two and a half stars

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