Breathing Lessons Paperback – Jan 14 2003
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Maggie Moran's mission is to connect and unite people, whether they want to be united or not. Maggie is a meddler and as she and her husband, Ira, drive 90 miles to the funeral of an old friend, Ira contemplates his wasted life and the traffic, while Maggie hatches a plant to reunite her son Jesse with his long-estranged wife and baby. As Ira explains, "She thinks the people she loves are better than they really are, and so then she starts changing things around to suit her view of them." Though everyone criticizes her for being "ordinary," Maggie's ability to see the beauty and potential in others ultimately proves that she is the only one fighting the resignation they all fear. The book captured the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1989. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In perhaps her most mainstream, accessible novel so far, Tyler spins a tale of marriage and middle-class lives, in an age when social standards and life expectations have gone askew. While she remains a brilliant observer of human nature, there is a subtle change here in Tyler's focus. Where before her protagonists were eccentric, sometimes slightly fantastical characters who came at the end to a sense of peace, if not happiness, Maggie Moran and her husband Ira are average, unexceptional, even somewhat drab; and outside of some small epiphanies, little is changed between them at the story's close. It's this very realism that makes the story so effective and moving. Taking place on one summer day, when Maggie and Ira drive from Baltimore to Pennsylvania to a funeral, with an accidental detour involving an old black man they pass on the road and a side trip to see their former daughter-in-law and their seven-year-old grandchild, the novel reveals the basic incompatibility of their 28-year marriage and the love that binds them together nonetheless. This is another typical Tyler union of opposites: Maggie is impetuous, scatterbrained, klutzy, accident prone and garrulous; Ira is self-contained, precise, dignified, aloof with, however, an irritating (or endearing ) habit of whistling tunes that betray his inner thoughts. Both feel that their children are strangers, that the generations are "sliding downhill," and that somehow they have gone wrong in a society whose values they no longer recognize. With irresistibly funny passages you want to read out loud and poignant insights that illuminate the serious business of sharing lives in an unsettling world, this is Tyler's best novel yet. 175,000 first printing ; BOMC main selection; Franklin Library signed first edition.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book has just the right amount of humor and drama. I felt by the end that I really knew the characters. I read it when I was 15 and reading it three years later I have learned to appreciate it more. I don't feel Maggie was condescending at all, she just desperately wanted to hold onto the past. Ira, although tactless, truly believed the truth would set people free. He was just that kind of person. Maggie had such high expectations for her son and truly believed he could do no wrong, whereas Ira probably saw a person who was living a life free of responsiblity. The book was so intricate with people's lives it seemed so real. I know people just like them. No one had bad intentions, no one was malicious, they just all had faults and I think the moral was that you just love people for who they are.
Maggie and Ira Moran, married 26 years, are on their way from their home in Baltimore to the funeral of an old friend in Pennsylvania. In the scope of one day and in 200 miles, Tyler explores the ties that hold a family together with warmth and a sense of irony.
Maggie's a bungler, an incorrigible meddler concerned with everyone's problems but her own, trying to make everything turn out all right for others while her marriage flounders. Ira is the typical middle-aged failure, a man to whom ambition is a long-dead memory but who agonizes over his mediocrity.
Through leaps back and forth through time and imagination, Tyler draws a message that comes through loud and clear: how important it is to realize how much we love those nearest and dearest to us. It's a look at aging that won't shock those who are experiencing it as much as it will younger folks who haven't thought this far ahead. The lessons are important.
It all started when Maggie Moran and her dreary husband, Ira, travelled all the way from Baltimore to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of her best friend's husband. Soon, it became a reunion for Maggie & Serena's batchmates. After several pages of flashbacks on the development of romance between Maggie & Ira, the couple was "forced" to leave at Serena's house because of the "accidental" & disrespectful incident.
After leaving, the story turned again to a lot of reflections and flashbacks. They bore two children, Jesse, (a drop-out from high school who was a rock band member, a separated husband and had a daughter out of wedlock) and Daisy, an incoming freshman who never became close to Maggie. (Wow, I can't believe Maggie's still there!) All of a sudden, Maggie insisted to visit Fiona (Jesse's ex-wife). But Ira said that she only wanted to visit her so that she would see their only granddaughter, Leroy. After pages of flashbacks (still there?), Maggie suggested to Fiona that she and Leroy would spend a night at their home. She hoped that Jesse & Fiona's marriage could still be saved. When she agreed, Maggie called up Jesse and told about Fiona. Jesse couldn't believe it but he went there anyway. In the end, well, the plot went nowhere.
I still can't get the essence of this story. Okay, probably this- this is all about one nosy and caring mother who couldn't prosper the values she wanted to instill in her children and unmoved husband.
Most recent customer reviews
Tyler is a masterful author. Reading her words seems as though you are having your own conversation ... using her words. Amazing writing!Published 10 months ago by DoJoWo
Did I miss something? I kept waiting for something to happen. I would have stopped reading it but I kept waiting for something to happen. Read morePublished on June 26 2004 by Roberta
What a disappointing book especially after reading The Accidental Tourist, which I liked. I admired the character Ira for his love and loyalty to Maggie, but both are losers who... Read morePublished on July 6 2003
Ann Tyler specializes in opposites and what attracts them to each other. The bulk of Breathing Lessons takes place during a car ride from Maryland to Pennsylvania that a middle-age... Read morePublished on June 11 2003 by Peggy Vincent
This must be the most annoying book I can ever remember reading. The lead character Maggie just made me feel like slapping her! Read morePublished on June 7 2003
I must say, this book was the worst book I have ever read. Where to begin? Ah yes! It seems only logical to start with Maggie. Read morePublished on April 23 2003 by Amazon Customer
I find that the greatest novels are those which find meaning and give insights into the lives of real people. Read morePublished on April 26 2002 by Oddsfish