Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
I read this book over 20 years ago and it has remained special in my memory ever since. The book is a simple account of a day in the life of Maggie, a wife and mother who is nearing 50 and has been married to Ira for 28 years.
As she and Ira head off for her best friend’s husband funeral s she is looking at the lives of her children, husband and herself. This is a gentle book written in the in third person and yet through the characters thoughts you can hear their voices in first person and it’s incredibly effective.
This book opened my eyes to the fact that life is not all rush and excitement, thrill seeking and passion. I was enthralled with the ordinariness of Maggie’s life but which she accepted as normal. The book looks at how satisfied people are with their own lives and the lives of their family.
Maggie feels her husband Ira thinks she is fat and worthless, clearly how she sees herself, that her daughter Daisy can’t wait to leave her `ordinary’ mother, and her son whose wife walked out on him with their daughter.
On the journey and on the way back Maggie’s journey takes several surprising detours, mainly through her interfering. Through these detours the author shows us Maggie’s family past and why she is in the state she is in.
It is beautifully written, and for the most part, an acute observation of real life relationships. Tyler seems to have a knack for simple details that help define a character, like Maggie looking for soap and a used towel so not to disturb the new soaps and clean guest towels in Serena’s bathroom.
Her witty writing and sharp observations make this easy to read and while nothing of any consequence takes place you have to read on. I almost became one of the family although this story is set in Baltimore USA it still has emotion relevance.
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons and her other bestselling novels, include The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage and Digging to America. In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as ‘the greatest novelist writing in English’. Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore where her novels are set.
I urge you to read this and all the other books some of which have been made into films.