Breathing Lessons has been on my tbr list for ages not only because it won the Pulitzer Prize, but also because I’m an Anne Tyler fan. While I enjoyed it, I’m always of the mindset that a prize-winning book should be in the 4 1/2 to 5 star range for me, and this one was slightly under that with a 4 star rating. An interesting note is that The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant were both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize as well.
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.
I own all of Anne Tyler’s novels published after Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, although this is only my third book read. The other two were The Amateur Marriage and Saint Maybe, which I also enjoyed.
Do you have a favorite Anne Tyler book?
1988, 324 pp.