- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 17, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393333078
- ISBN-13: 978-0393333077
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Air We Breathe: A Novel Paperback – October 17, 2008
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As bracing and restorative as the cold, crisp winds endured by the patients. -- Miami Herald
Every page seems so vibrant, its people so alive....Majestic, breathtaking, thrilling. -- San Diego Union-Tribune
Like an elegant ghost story, narrated by a chorus of not-quite-innocent spectral bystanders. -- Washington Post Book World
We feel the fear and resignation of a group imprisoned by disease....A touching, effective book. -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
About the Author
Andrea Barrett is the author of The Air We Breathe, Servants of the Map (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Voyage of the Narwhal, Ship Fever (winner of the National Book Award), and other books. She teaches at Williams College and lives in northwestern Massachusetts.
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Although Miles's lectures on fossils initially bore the men, the Wednesday group flourishes when others share their expertise and life stories. There's Ephraim, a communal apple farmer; Irene, the Russian radiologist; and Leo, a former chemist who attracts the romantic interest of both Naomi and her friend Eudora, an aide at the sanitorium who longs to follow in Irene's footsteps. Meanwhile, Miles has fallen in love with Naomi, who has been serving as his driver. As one would expect, conflicts develop from misplaced romantic notions, and even the serene town of Tamarack Lake is not immune to the effects of the rising war in Europe and the political fallout at home.
Barrett is often praised for bringing science and technology into her novels, and there are lengthy sections here on chemistry, radiology, fossils, etc. I have to admit that, while I was engaged with the characters, I found the science rather awkwardly integrated and intrusive: it felt like the author was writing a novel to expound on scientific topics rather than writing a novel in which science plays a role.
The characters are sympathetically drawn, even the eventual bad-guy is fully formed. Really this is the kind of luminous book that makes me think that any further writing I do is a complete waste of time. She's that good.
The story, unfortunately, becomes tedious and confusing at times. I kept hoping that the narrator --a female patient perhaps?-- would soon step out of the background and bring the plot back to clarity and interest. Alas, this never happened, and once again I was left wondering why I don't just borrow books from the library instead of buying them.