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Monday, September 5, 2011

Review - Anne Tyler's BREATHING LESSONS

This is a Pulitzer prize winner. The book has got rave reviews. I however found Maggie irritating.
Based on just a single day in the life of Maggie and Ira the day encompasses the characters of both
Maggie and Ira - that is the beauty of the author's writing and I presume how she won the Pulitzer.

Maggie and Ira are on their way for a funeral - Maggie's good friend Serena has lost her husband Max to cancer. On their way back (Maggie well before) decides to make a detour to catch up with Fiona her ex-daughter in law because she believes that her son and Fiona can make a go of their marriage despite them being very much divorced. Maggie seems to be good natured in her meddling - she seems to believe that what she thinks is right/will be right/will come out right will happen but she is meddlesome.  She will not think things through, she will not think of consequences but just thinks for the moment and only in her own insular way of "hoping for the best" and thinking that her way is the best way.

Ira is matter of fact, let sleeping dogs lie, willing to accept everyone as what they are but he does not have the strength of mind or energy to ask Maggie to mind her own business. He seems to be swept in with her plans so that he also becomes to an outsider as part of the "team" who do as they want,  when they want. Even in crisis, he seems to just melt into the background and only once or twice actually begs to differ. He is overwhelmed by Maggie's insistence on doing things her way.

Fast forward and go back in flashback are part of the book. There is no great story, there is no overwhelming love story but there is humor and irritation in equal measure. I was mostly irritated though.
It was not a comfortable read for me because reading a book where a character constantly irritates me is not my idea of a good time.

Sorry this book did not do anything for me, other than the belief that one should not become like Maggie!


  1. I enjoy books that show the everyday and ordinary moments with tensions, etc. This is a book I read a long time ago, but more recently, I saw a movie based on it starring Joanne Woodward as Maggie. She brought a special kind of "annoying" to that character!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, Mystica.

  2. I really enjoy Anne Tyler's work, but don't think I've read this one. Sorry it didn't work for you.

  3. I love Anne Tyler (and it doesn't hurt that she is from my hometown either). Enjoy!

  4. Sorry this didn't work out for you. I loved The Accidental Tourist and have Back When We Were Grownups on my TBR shelf. I just love her quirky characters, but if they get irritable, that just makes for an awful reading experience. Hope you'll try another Anne Tyler book :)

  5. I haven't read this one either, but I have heard of the movie. I know it's one of those stories that people raved about for a long time when it came out.

  6. I've only read one of Tyler's novels and I remember the lead female drove me nuts for very similar reasons. I am guessing I wouldn't like this one then either!

  7. I have to agree, I really find it hard to enjoy a book if the main character annoys me. Thanks for your thoughtful review.

  8. Sorry you didn't enjoy this one. I tend to like Anne Tyler's books but I don't know that I've read this one.

  9. There is something strange about Anee Tyler. You see she is supposed to be this famous American writer right? When I read Digging to America, I didn't like it as well. It was meh for me. I wonder why I wasted time on the book.

    Thanks for saying like it is!

  10. it's been a while since I read this but I didn't like it much either. Thanks for sharing your review!

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  11. I wasn't crazy about this one either when I read it, but her last book, Noah's Compass, was terrific.