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Monday, April 18, 2011

Just Breathe by Susan Wiggs~★★★1/2

Author: Susan Wiggs
Title: Just Breathe
Release Date: April 28th, 2009
Publisher: Brillance Audio on CD Value Priced; Abridged Edition, read by Sandra Burr
Genre: Fiction

Audio Book Cover: (Warning: This book cover contains spoilers). "Chicago cartoonist Sarah Moon tackles life's real issues with a healthy dose of sharp wit in her syndicated comic strip Just Breathe. As Sarah's cartoon alter ego, Shirl, undergoes artificial insemination, her situation begins to mirror Sarah's own difficult attempts to conceive. However, Sarah's dreams of the future did not include her husband's infidelity: snag number two in Sarah's so-called perfect life.
With Chicago---and her marriage---in the rearview mirror, she flees to the small Northern California coastal town where she grew up, a place she couldn't wait to leave. Now she finds herself revisiting the past---an emotionally distant father and the unanswered questions left by her mother's death. As she comes to terms with her lost marriage, Sarah encounters a man she never expected to meet again: Will Bonner, the high school heartthrob she'd skewed mercilessly in her old comics. Now a local firefighter, he's been through some changes himself. But just as her heart is about to reawaken, Sarah discovers she is pregnant. With her ex's twins.
It's hardly the most traditional of new beginnings, but who says life and love are predictable...or perfect? The winds of change have led Sarah here. Now all she can do is just close her eyes...and breathe."

Taryn's Review: The book cover for this book totally gives away what could have been a huge surprise for the reader. The comments that Sarah made regarding the spoiler would have been fun to overlook or assume they are due to the situation between Sarah and Jack. The shock the reader would have felt along with Sarah would perhaps have helped the reader feel closer to Sarah. However, whoever wrote the blurb disagreed, and in my opinion, that was a huge mistake. I know as a reader I love twists, turns, and surprises in books. In this one, I hated knowing something about Sarah that she didn't know about herself, especially since the book was often told from Sarah's perspective.

This being my first reading of a Wiggs book, I think she really shined with her portrayal of Aurora, Will's stepdaughter. The flighty emotions, the rudeness, the momentary sweetness: Wiggs did a great job with Aurora. My only squabble was when Aurora used the phrase "gee whiz" and a friend of hers used the term "fly" in reference to something being cool. I'm quite confident that neither of these phrases are used commonly among the junior high students of the United States for the most part, especially in the late decade of the 2000s.

The book was completely predictable, but Wiggs is a strong writer that carried the book well. I didn't particularly find Sarah's comic strip to be very funny, but then again, maybe I don't understand comic strips very well. I was disappointed when Sarah discovered her husband's affair and used the infidelity to mean, of course, that she had never been happy in her marriage. She suddenly realized she was living a life she didn't want. What I don't understand is why often in books, the lead character can't just say, "You know, I was happy, I did believe in this marriage and then life went wrong." It's always, "I was never happy anyway!" Jack was portrayed as being a complete jackass throughout the novel, but Sarah spent many years with this man. Where were the good moments? Also, Jack did go through something very traumatic and Sarah was pushing him to be successful in the one thing his illness took away. I'm sure there would have been some serious psychological issues going on for Jack. But hey, this was about Sarah now! I'm not excusing what he did, but honestly, I felt Sarah made it all about her pretty quickly. No need to regard the feelings of the man she swore she'd spend her life with, for better or for worse.

I really enjoyed Sandra Burr's reading of the book and she is very talented in changing her voice for different characters. However, I think she made them sound a bit older than they really were. Will and Sarah are supposed to only be in their late 20s, but the reader's voice projected them as much older. That may not be her fault, though, seeing as how she was probably cast for the book reading. Burr has a smooth voice and it was very easy to know which character was speaking just by her voice. I was very impressed with her overall.

I liked the book and it passed the time well enough. It's very predictable but still light-hearted. I'd find it to be a particularly good beach or poolside read, especially for upcoming vacations. I have my own issues with the storyline, but I'd suggest it overall.

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