Thursday, November 10, 2016

Alexander, Sarah. The Art of Not Breathing.

Alexander, Sarah.  The Art of Not Breathing.    Houghton Mifflin  2016  274p  $17.99  ISBN 978-0-544-63388-9  hs  Realistic Fiction  VG-BN   

Written in a believable first-person voice, this debut novel by Sarah Alexander tells the dramatic, intriguing story of a girl who must piece together the truth of her brother’s drowning when so many parts of the story have been buried due to the psychological trauma.  Young Elsie is the “normal” twin; her brother Eddie is developmentally delayed.  Both love the ocean, until a swimming accident takes her brother.  The story begins when sixteen-year old Elsie is trying to survive high school.  She has a close bond with her older brother Dillon, but that is not enough to stave off her loneliness and her “misfit” status at school, where she is bullied.  When she meets Tay, her life changes.  She begins to free dive, and realizes that in the depths of the ocean she can begin to live again.  Her deep-sea experience triggers memories that she uses to piece together the events of day her brother drowned.  A wonderful cast of characters plays out various roles in Elsie’s life: her mother, a drinker who is depressed and aloof; her father, an escapist who seems unable to cope with anything more than work and survival; Mike, the owner of a new dive shop, and his son Danny, the free diver who seems to have Elsie’s best interests at heart.  But does he?  The portrait of Dillon is compelling; he is an anorexic who is depressed even before his brother’s death.  As the plot develops, Elsie makes discoveries that change her perceptions of everyone.  It is when she finds her twin’s shirt that the novel reaches a climax that will please new readers and leave them wanting more.  The words are descriptive, the plot is engaging, and the characters are inviting.  A good book forces readers to think, and Alexander’s accomplishes just that.

Summary: A family is devastated and begins to fall apart when a mildly disabled son drowns.  Elsie sets about trying to find out what happened on that fateful day.  A new young man named Tay, her brother Dillon, her mother, and others are involved, and Elsie must figure out exactly how.   

Twins-Fiction, Drowning-Fiction                 --Martha Squaresky

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