Maggie and Ira Moran have been married for twenty-eight years-and it shows: in their quarrels, in their routines, in their ability to tolerate with affection each other's eccentricities. Maggie, a kooky, lovable meddler and an irrepressible optimist, wants nothing more than to fix her son's broken marriage. Ira is infuriatingly practical, a man "who should have married Ann Landers." And what begins as a day trip to a funeral becomes an adventure in the unexpected. As Maggie and Ira navigate the riotous twists and turns, they intersect with an assorted cast of eccentrics-and rediscover the magic of the road called life and the joy of having somebody next to you to share the ride . . . bumps and all. "From the Trade Paperback edition."
The story takes place in a single day and doesn’t have much of a plot, but the characters are so believable that that didn’t 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 Maggie’s relationship with her friend Serena and the couple’s 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 doesn’t appreciate Maggie’s 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 Maggie’s wish to be more involved in her children’s and granchild’s lives. I also identified with some of Ira’s 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 ‘typical’ characters to life in a way that makes us wish we could continue the relationship with them even after the story is finished.
Overall, I didn't get bored or annoyed while reading the book, but it left pretty much no impact on me.
I’ve had this on my TBR for ages, and just never got to it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long, but then again, maybe my own years of marriage help me better understand Maggie and Ira’s relationship – 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 – small and large – 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 doesn’t want things to work out, to see his child happy, or her spouse succeed? Who doesn’t appreciate those small tokens of affection, or get irritated by another person’s 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 Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet asked me, “Do you think you can fall in love at fourteen?” My answer: “Falling in love is easy. Loving someone is more challenging … especially when he can’t find the dishwasher though it’s right there under the counter where he leaves the dirty dishes.” Ira and Maggie have learned to look past “the dishes” and love one another anyway. And I love them.
Their lives may be ordinary; the novel is anything but.
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 now—next weekend—be 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.''
Tyler has a gift for writing about everyday people and making their lives seem relevant and relatable. I loved this story because there were no real great changes or revelations, just life continuing on and trying to find meaning from it all. The characters all have their quirks and flaws, yet they are very endearing, and as a reader I had empathy for these people.
The entire book takes place in a one day time frame as Maggie and Ira are driving to her high school friend’s husband’s funeral. Maggie and Ira get on each other’s 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.
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+!
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 husband and wife seemed very real to me (however, I must confess that for some reason I started picturing them as Kitty and Red Foreman from That 70s Show...). Anyway, I found myself rooting for their "happiness" - sentimental, I know, but the story did not sink to the level of sappiness. Also, their difficult relationships with their widely different children was given a bittersweet sense of reality as well.
Not a profound book, but still a very enjoyable read. I will definitely keep on the lookout for more of Tyler's books in anticipation of another rainy Sunday afternoon.
I have read three books by Anne Tyler and love her writing. I have 9 others on my bookshelves waiting for me to pick them up. Although I enjoyed this book, I think it is my least favourite. So far, number one is [The Accidental Tourist] and number two, [Ladder of Years]. However, just because it is my least favourite does not mean it is not a great read.
Written about one 24 hour period in the lives of Ira and Maggie Moran, it gives us a snapshot of their life together and the lives of other family and friends around them.
I did find it a startlingly real description of Ira and Maggie’s marriage, an ordinary marriage of ordinary people. I loved the depiction of this couple, of their strong love bond, the understanding they have of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. The kindness and compassion that they show for one another. Oh, sure, there is also frustration and anger and withdrawal from one another. All these things that can co-exist in a marriage; the good, the bad and the ugly. I do find Anne Tyler pleases me!
3. 5 stars
The action takes place in one day, as a middle-aged married couple travel to a funeral. We see them in everyday exchanges, exasperations, and occasional flashes of affection. Every character in the book is so commonplace that the reader loses interest about half-way through the book.
And in the end, no one has learned a thing from their experiences.
"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 been married for 28 years. Now, as they drive from their home in Baltimore to the funeral of Maggie's best friend's husband, Anne Tyler shows us all there is to know about a marriage - the expectations, the disappointments, the way children can create storms in a family, the way a wife and husband can fall in love all over again, the way nothing really changes.