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A Mouthful Of Air Paperback – December 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage (December 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931561893
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931561891
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 4.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,690,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lean, minutely detailed and frighteningly convincing, this polished debut explores the mind of Julie Davis, a privileged 26-year-old New Yorker suffering from postpartum depression after giving birth to her son, Teddy. The novel begins just after she tries to commit suicide, soon before Teddy's first birthday. Back from the hospital and home with her husband, Ethan, and Teddy's live-in nurse, Georgie, Julie struggles to feign normality, continually reassuring herself that she can function perfectly well: "She will empty the stroller and pay for what she has. She will tell Ethan to bring home bottled water or just use water from the tap." The plot moves along the grooves of her depressed, circular thinking, fed by small, ordinary developments: a Knicks game, a Tupperware party, a trip to the grocery store with Teddy, a move to the suburbs. Tranquil as her life is on the outside, her mind never rests, constantly struggling with the voice in her head that she describes as a "skeptical, mocking, bitter person furious she is alive." Memories of childhood with her father intrude often. He called her Flower, but treated her and her mother roughly, leaving many scars. Another frequently heard voice is that of her mother whose motto is "If you look happy and pretty, then you are happy and pretty." Ethan is patient and thoughtful, though he has odd lapses, calling his formerly bulimic wife "Tiny." Koppelman skillfully builds suspense as Julie battles with her demons, conjuring up an airless, oppressively stifling world. Though all signs point to the disturbing ending, it still comes as a surprise.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

This effective first novel portrays the deep and abiding depression of a young wife and mother, newly returned to her family after a suicide attempt. Julie's life shows that love, money, privilege, and position are no guarantee of happiness, and that there is no logic to depression. So visceral is Koppelman's prose, the reader truly feels the depths of Julie's spirit and the toll of her continual struggle to keep herself afloat. Although living in the present and benefiting from today's psychopharmacology, Julie seems remarkably untouched by the tremendous changes in women's lives since the 1960s. She marries very young, has no career, and becomes a mother right away. Her being out of sync with society emphasizes how out of touch she is with feelings of success or contentment. Unexpectedly pregnant again, she must give up the drugs that have helped her survive and risk all for the baby. Despite an air of melodrama at the end, this tragic tale, though difficult to read, is worth the effort. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
Koppelman is an author who has much to teach us.
Bruce J. Wasser
And as soon as I found the book, I could not stop reading it ~ started on Thursday night, put it down only to catch some sleep, woke up and read till I finished.
Nicole Eva Fraser
She expresses herself in a clear and concise manner, and yet completes the picture for her reader.
Barbara Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Koppleman has written a harrowing story of a young woman's struggle with post-partum depression. In low key prose that reflects Julie Davis' desire to live a quasi-normal life after surviving a recent suicide attempt, Julie seems, on the surface, to have an enviable life: a successful husband, a baby boy and an upscale New York apartment. But Julie's troubles dwell below the surface, sometimes not even visible to her.
Julie's mother is a desperate woman, obsessed with her own fading youth, divorced by her womanizing husband after 27 years of marriage. For his part, Julie's father has exhibited inappropriate behavior around his daughter throughout her life, confusing her sexual identity and blurring boundaries. These parents have deeply affected their daughter's self-image, leaving their daughter vulnerable to an overwhelming downward spiral after the birth of her son.
Medication and therapy offer significant improvement in Julie's depression. But when she discovers that she is pregnant again, after only a year, the young couple is faced with a serious dilemma. Julie's obstetrician believes her antidepressant will not harm the fetus, but her psychiatrist disagrees. To protect the baby, Julie suspends the medication until after the birth of her child. With live-in help and therapeutic supervision, the young woman directs all her energy toward maintaining a healthy and stable pregnancy, physically and emotionally.
Over the years, Julie has developed the skills necessary for maintaining a secret life, first mastering the intricate rituals of an eating disorder in her teens. Once the emotional demons are unleashed, however, they are powerful and patient. Even Julie forgets how cleverly her mind works to defeat her best intentions: "She learned to cry in the womb of her antidepressant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
A searing novel written with authority. A rare gem. Ms. Koppelman's is a new voice in the tradition of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Joan Didion. I'll be teaching this one in my graduate fiction class for many years to come. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It won't let go of you until long after you're done reading it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By never can read enough on November 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
I had no idea what this novel was going to be about, which is the best way to go in, isn't it? I was absolutely devastated and enthralled by Koppelman's beautiful writing. What a book. It has really stayed with me. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicole Eva Fraser on July 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
As soon as I discovered A Mouthful of Air online and read an excerpt, I thought, I have to get this book. I was especially drawn by the promise of sparse, elegant prose and its story of a young mother suffering from postpartum depression.

And as soon as I found the book, I could not stop reading it ~ started on Thursday night, put it down only to catch some sleep, woke up and read till I finished. I've read thousands of books and enjoyed many of them ~ but Amy Koppelman's brilliant, quiet, harrowingly transportive writing stands out over everything I've read in recent memory.

From the first page of the story, I'm immediately and vividly inside main character Julie Davis's mind, her emotions, actions, and memories ~ seeing, feeling, and thinking right along with her in a visceral way ~ which is astonishing because Koppelman uses such lean, uncluttered prose. I was totally in Julie Davis's head through the whole book, and can't stop reflecting back on her, her experiences, her despair. The fact that Koppelman accomplished this via the third-person is another testament to the power of her writing. It is poetry, anguish, simplicity, darkness, clarity, all interwoven.

I recommend A Mouthful of Air for library and book club discussion groups and will bring it to my own group when we meet in August. The story prompts discussion on so many levels. I've started making some notes of questions about the characters' inner and outer lives, and their possible futures. These questions intrigue me because I love unique fiction that rings this true to my spirit, and because the answers can apply to real people who are experiencing real suffering.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on December 11, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exquisitely driven by two narratives, one internal and the other chronological, Amy Koppelman's brilliant debut novel explores the devastating consequences of a failed suicide attempt by a bright, terribly insecure and depressed young woman. "A Mouthful of Air" is not for the weak-hearted. It is an unflinching description of survivor guilt, mental illness and personality disintegration. Koppelman's writing is lean, precise and wrenching; she permits us to have just enough understanding of her protagonist's torment to identify with her anguish, but not so much that we can predict what will occur next.

Julie Davis "is simply worn out from worry: who she loves, how she loves, if her love is good enough." This pervasive fear causes her to tremble even at the most common of encounters. A failed suicide attempt makes the innocuous greeting "How are you doing today?" into a question fraught with complicated possibilities. In truth, Julie is without hope. Her goal of literal self-eradication fails, and she is left with the burden of picking up the pieces of her life, trying to reassemble them into some kind of order and learning how to develop the skills to go through each day.

In fact, she is so immobilized by her illness that what appears to be a simple task (shopping, deciding what to wear, using an elevator) overwhelms her. We are painfully aware that she has been released from psychiatric hospitalization prematurely. Her "tiredness, overwhelming sorrow and endless sense of loss" are felt "both gradually and immediately." Despite being married to a loving, loyal man and having given birth to a sweet-natured boy, Julie senses her relationships are doomed.
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