Breathe: A Novel

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The love story of Michaela and Gerard began in the cold of Massachusetts and ends in the heat of New Mexico, not because of infidelity or a lover’s spat but because death will not be denied in Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel Breathe.

Oates’ own husband died of pneumonia a decade ago, and one can only imagine the horror of watching him die was part of the inspiration for this book. It is difficult to read in places, especially as Michaela begins to unravel in her terror at the prospect of living without Gerard. The book moves in and out of varying points of view that can be hard to follow, though the effect is likely to make the reader as uncomfortable and out of sync as Michaela whose grief is deafening. It’s hard to give an overview of what exactly happens in this novel as the timeline isn’t linear; the only static element is Michaela’s love for Gerard and the way the reality of his death unmoors her.

For fans of Oates, there’s a value in reading the novel. And, I imagine, those interested in grief could find a compelling character study in Breathe. It isn’t for everyone, though, largely because the chaos and mess of Michaela’s life, in the wake of the last two years in America, may simply be too much to bear.


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Author Joyce Carol Oates
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 384 pages
Publisher Ecco
Publish Date 03-Aug-2021
ISBN 9780063085473
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue November 2021
Category Popular Fiction
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