Monday, 18 June 2012

Breathe, Sloan Parker

A book I read a while ago. By one of favourite writers, Sloan Parker. For me, this is her best work. An emotionally deep and beautiful piece of writing. Wonderfully psychological

- Review by Kazza K

Breathe is a beautiful, aptly named book. None of the characters in this book can breathe, not the MC's Jay and Linc, not Jay's family (the Millers), not Katie's family (the Shaws), not Linc's family (Nancy and her 3 children).

Breathe is a love story but it is also a study in abject sorrow, guilt and blinding bitterness. What those emotions can do to people, particularly if there are other cracks underneath in the first place. Cracks like trying to hide your true sexuality, a happy, middle class marriage facade, the loss of an only child, believing you're inadequate, feeling overly responsible 24/7. Death and its aftermath cannot be handled (properly) when there are other things to deal with that are important yet being neglected through denial or dysfunction.

Twelve months after his wife, Katie's, death Jay is trying to handle her loss with an emphasis on what she was - happy, kind, caring, understanding and decent. Everyone else around seems to want to drag him under the ground where she lies now. You can understand their grief, but they are not allowing Jay to deal with it in his own way. Even Jay's own mother is morbidly obsessed with her daughter-in-law's death. Jay wants to move on while still loving her and honouring her memory, no-one in the melded families can allow him to do it. It's hard to fight negativity on your own. Then Jay meets Linc at Sonny's, a local pub, and sexual sparks fly. For the first time in a year he feels like there is something other than despair. Unfortunately, because of who Linc is, their interlude quickly becomes a shock (of epic proportions) and things become immensely complicated.

Linc is incredibly guilt ridden over the death of Jay's wife Katie. It is so sad yet it is something that could happen to any person in the blink of an eye on any given day. Katies's death is nothing premeditated or callous, yet Linc feels the weight of the world over the event, as any feeling human would be inclined to do. He also feels the pressure of his sister Nancy's lousy partners and her struggle to live day to day in spite of her working two jobs and trying to raise 3 children. Linc has been to jail but still does not feel he has paid his debt. It's hard to fight guilt when you feel so lost. He, too, feels a strong connection to Jay but, upon learning who he is, finds their relationship equally complicated.

On top of two men with an intertwined, difficult past trying to work their relationship out, there is the mystery of cruel notes being sent to Linc with even crueller actions being threatened against his sister's children. Linc and Jay feel that the notes are a travesty and decide to find out who is behind them. It is never telegraphed who it is and I, for one, was left wondering who it was until the reveal.

I truly loved this book. Little things like emphasising the word breathe in relation to a feeling or a situation. How things are slowed down or noticed more, which is what happens when a significant life event occurs, things can seem more intense, there can be painful clarity. I loved the main character's, Jay and Linc, they were good, decent men, thoughtful of those around them. Both men needed/deserved to have a second chance at life, at love. Nancy and her children were such a delight, they lit up the pages for me. I loved Katie, even though she was dead, she was very much alive thanks to Jay and Linc's interactions (and some wonderful writing).

Breathe is many things. It is a hard read at times, definitely emotional, a love story brimming with life and passion in spite of the subject matter being covered. Jay and Linc have such chemistry together - sometimes angst, sometimes sexual - no matter what, passion is always there. If you like angst thrown in amongst your romance and sexual heat, then Breathe won't disappoint. Worth more than 5 stars but that's all I can give.

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