Fiction. Literature. HTML:WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Evoking Jane Austen, Emma Straub, and other masters of the literary marriage, Breathing Lessons celebrates the small miracles and magic of truly knowing someone. Unfolding over the course of a single emotionally fraught day, this stunning novel encompasses a lifetime of dreams, regrets and reckoningsand is oftern regarded as Tyler's seminal work. Maggie and Ira Moran are on a road trip from Baltimore, Maryland to Deer Lick, Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of a friend. Along the way, they reflect on the state of their marriage, its trials and its triumphsthrough their quarrels, their routines, and their ability to tolerate each others faults with patience and affection. Where Maggie is quirky, lovable and mischievous, Ira is practical, methodical and mired in reason. What begins as a day trip becomes a revelatory and unexpected journey, as Ira and Maggie rediscover the strength of their bond and the joy of having somebody with whom to share the ride, bumps and all. More powerful and moving than anything [Tyler] has done. Los Angeles Times.
The story takes place in a single day and doesnât have much of a plot, but the characters are so believable that that didnât really bother me. Maggie and Ira Moran seemed like a very real couple to me. The novel centers on their marriage but also branches out into Maggieâs relationship with her friend Serena and the coupleâs relationships with their children and grandchild. In the novel Maggie is portrayed as a flighty woman who just wants everyone to get along and quite frequently tries to encourage reconciliation between injured parties. Ira is somewhat aloof but has a habit of whistling tunes that betray his inner mindset. He can be blunt at times and doesnât appreciate Maggieâs well-intentioned meddling. However, in the end we are left wondering which of the two has really done the most damage by his or her actions.
I could identify with Maggieâs wish to be more involved in her childrenâs and granchildâs lives. I also identified with some of Iraâs issues and their issues as a married couple. I think almost everyone would know a couple like Maggie and Ira Moran. Perhaps that is what Tyler does so well, though. She brings those âtypicalâ characters to life in a way that makes us wish we could continue the relationship with them even after the story is finished.
Here's the setup: Maggie is married to Ira, a man who had dreams of doing medical research but now runs a small picture-framing shop. Maggie wanted nothing more than to assist in a nursing home, and that's what she does. Daughter Daisy is intense, capable, but curiously estranged from family; she practically lives with a friend whose mother Maggie calls Mrs. Perfect. Son Jesse is a talent-free loser, a high-school dropout half-heartedly pursuing fame and fortune as a rock performer. He got a girl named Fiona pregnant, married her, and, less than a year after the birth of their daughter, was divorced by her.
Nothing special about the Morans (though Tyler does seem to be signaling us by giving them that name). The shop Ira runs was started by his father Sam who lives in the apartment above it with his two damaged and dependent daughters (Ira's sisters). Upon Ira's high school graduation, Sam announced that he had a heart ailment; Ira would have to take over the shop to support his father and sisters. Partly as a consequence, the author tells us, Ira was "fifty years old and had never accomplished one single act of consequence.''
For her part, Maggie's been belittled by her own mother as well as her daughter. ''How have you let things get so common?'' her mother had once demanded, oblivous to the fact that, though her father was a lawyer, her husband was a garage-door installer. Then not long ago, Daisy asked, "Mom? Was there a certain conscious point in your life when you decided to settle for being ordinary?''
The story recounts a single day in Maggie and Ira's life, devoted to a round trip from Baltimore to a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, just off Route 1. Maggie's best friend from high school is holding a memorial service for her husband, now dead from cancer. As she starts her car, the radio comes on, tuned to an AM call-in show, and she hears a familiar voice, a caller, telling the host that she first had "married for love" but would nowânext weekendâbe marrying "for security." Maggie "hears" Fiona admitting she still loves Jesse but that she's marrying someone else in a week. Not much time for Maggie to act!
All her life, what Maggie has wanted to do is help people, to ease friction, smooth the bumps, bring people together, help them to be just as good as she "sees" them being. ''It's Maggie's weakness," Ira explains. "She believes it's all right to alter people's lives. She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her point of view of them.''
Iâve had this on my TBR for ages, and just never got to it. I wish I hadnât waited so long, but then again, maybe my own years of marriage help me better understand Maggie and Iraâs relationship â with each other, with their children, parents, co-workers, neighbors and friends.
I love the way Tyler reveals her characters to the reader. Their actions â small and large â and statements show the reader who these people are. Their hopes, dreams, frustrations, and regrets become evident over the course of the novel. I am irritated by Maggie, and yet I love her. Who doesnât want things to work out, to see his child happy, or her spouse succeed? Who doesnât appreciate those small tokens of affection, or get irritated by another personâs unconscious habit? I want to shake Ira, and yet I love his patient forebearance, and that he still tries to please Maggie.
Some years ago a young teen who had just read Shakespeareâs Romeo and Juliet asked me, âDo you think you can fall in love at fourteen?â My answer: âFalling in love is easy. Loving someone is more challenging âŚ especially when he canât find the dishwasher though itâs right there under the counter where he leaves the dirty dishes.â Ira and Maggie have learned to look past âthe dishesâ and love one another anyway. And I love them.
Their lives may be ordinary; the novel is anything but.
Overall, I didn't get bored or annoyed while reading the book, but it left pretty much no impact on me.
Maggie considers herself to be a romantic matchmaker of sorts. Her life's ultimate mission is to unite people and bring couples together; whether they want to be connected or not. Ira secretly wonders if he should have married Ann Landers. In truth, Maggie is a meddler - a well-meaning meddler, yes, but a meddler nonetheless. She is a soft and loving person; who is determined to see only the innate goodness and limitless potential in the people she loves.
On a particularly hot summer day, the couple is driving to Deer Lick, Pennsylvania - ninety miles from their home in Baltimore - to attend the funeral of Maggie's best friend's husband. During the course of that journey, with its several unexpected detours along the way - into the lives of old friends and fully grown children, into fond memories of the past and valiant, if misguided, attempts to rearrange the present - the entire intimate story of a marriage is revealed. All the expectations, the disappointments; the way children can create storms within a family; the way that wife and husband can fall in love with each other all over again; the way that everything - and nothing - changes.
When I first started reading this book, I was expecting it to be relatively uneventful; even slightly boring. However, the story really was very interesting to me. I have always enjoyed reading Anne Tyler's work - in my opinion, she always does an excellent job with characterization and plotting. This was just such a book - a quick and easy read for me; pleasant and poignant, and filled with intricately familiar and well-developed characters. I give this book an A+!
I can see why this was so
First, some parts were simply not believable. The author spends a great deal of time making what I have described above very relatable, yet in order to illustrate those she puts the characters in very unbelievable situations., situations I can honestly say I have never been in and in which I am certain the average person has probably never been either. So there was a real disconnect there in my mind.
Second, the characters seemed to display the exact same character flaws their entire lives, like they are just incapable of learning from past mistakes. It became frustrating to read, and made the book pretty predictable in places.
Lastly, and this is a function of the time in which it was written, but so much of what happens in the story is the result of the characters not being able to quickly communicate with each other. I canât help but think that had this same story taken place in 2014 it would have lasted all of ten pages as virtually every crisis could have been resolved with a quick cell phone call.
Overall quite enjoyable but not overwhelmingly interesting, which given the acclaim (and awards) it has received, is a minority opinion.
The story was studded by flashbacks in the midst of this tale of a day in which Maggie and her husband of 28 years travel to the funeral of the husband of Maggie's best friend Serena--and take a detour to visit their son's divorced wife and their granddaughter. Parts from Maggie's perspective bookend a part from Ira's point of view, forming a meditation upon love and marriage. I remember first being charmed by the story of Maggie's crush on one of the nursing home patients where she's an aide. She fantasizes about this courtly man at times when she's feeling sour about her marriage, only to realize that what she loves in the man is that he's like Ira. Maggie is meddlesome and ditzy, her husband tactless and aloof, but both of them are good people, and the novel is filled with sharp insights and warm humor.
For all that, I didn't lose my heart to the book, and unless I love the other two novels in the omnibus edition I own more (Accidental Tourist and Searching for Caleb) I doubt it'll remain much longer on my bookshelf. That isn't the fault of the book, really but it's just this isn't quite the kind of book I love. It never made me spellbound with the prose, or tempted me to dogear a page because of an unforgettable line, there's no twist. These aren't extraordinary people or ordinary people faced with the extraordinary, or set in an exotic land of long ago. They're just the people next door--written with insight and affection, but not quite what I look for in a novel. Rather this is what might be called "domestic drama." A The Corrections without the literary pretentiousness of style, and much more likeable characters.
The entire book takes place in a one day time frame as Maggie and Ira are driving to her high school friendâs husbandâs funeral. Maggie and Ira get on each otherâs nerves during the road trip and each reminisces about life events that brought them to the place they are today. This book is a delightfully funny and honest portrayal of how people, especially those with grown children look back on their lives and imagine various what if scenarios, for example, what if Ira had pursued his dream of becoming a doctor, and what if Maggie had married her first serious boyfriend. Although, sometimes it is fun to look back on your life and imagine what could have been it can also make you thankful for what you do have, even if may seem ordinary to others. This is a realistic portrayal of how spouses can get on each others nerves, children can drive us crazy, etc. but we do love and appreciate them.
I enjoyed reading this book and there were parts that honestly did make me laugh out loud.
Tyler has a gift for writing about everyday people and
"Breathing Lessons" is the wonderfully moving and surprising story of Ira and Maggie Moran. She's impetuous, harum-scarum, easygoing; he's competent, patient, seemingly infallible. They've