Title: Just Breathe
Author: Susan Wiggs
Release Date: September 1, 2008
Publisher: Mira Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Review: Originally posted at Curled Up With a Good Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Just Breathe is the story of Sarah Moon a happily (or so she thinks) married woman living in Chicago. Admittedly, she doesn’t really like Chicago, and her house is 100 percent her husband and zero percent her, and all she has been able to think about for the past year is getting pregnant but she doesn’t really know why. Still, she’s happy – or so she thinks, until she walks in on her husband oh-so-typically cheating on her with his client. Devastated, she throws all her belongings into a car and, without thinking, just begins driving. She finds herself on the doorstep of her childhood home in Northern California, a place where she was never happy and didn’t really belong.
Once there, Sarah reconnects with her past and begins to realize how unhappy her marriage really was. It doesn’t hurt that her crush from high school, gorgeous Will Bonner, is still in town, though everyone thought he would leave the first chance he got. Sarah realizes that it’s more complicated than it seems when she meets his beautiful stepdaughter, Aurora, whose mother took off a long time ago. As if life isn’t ridiculous enough, Sarah gets a surprise that sends her reeling, making her realize what love really is and what it means to be yourself.
Just Breathe is a sweet romance novel about finding yourself after losing everything you thought meant something to you. Sarah is a damaged person who most women can sympathize with – definitely an extreme, but a lot of misfits are insecure and don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. Underneath, Sarah has felt inadequate, that if she asserted herself, her “perfect” husband Jack wouldn’t love her anymore. Neither of them was actually happy in their marriage, but they each focused on something to make it more palatable: Jack had an affair, and Sarah wanted to fix everything with a baby. The book is a testament to the idea of a marriage of equals – you can’t let yourself disappear within your marriage, because you will never be happy.
The book is definitely a long one, but the pages fly by. I planned on taking this novel slowly but found myself hooked on Sarah’s story and couldn’t put it down. I ended up reading Just Breathe in two long sittings. Wiggs is a wonderful storyteller and readers will be captivated by Sarah’s quest to find herself.
Admittedly, the storyline is predictable. The reader pretty much knows what is going to happen from the second they read the book jacket. Wiggs does throw some monkey wrenches into the works with sub-plots, but generally it’s easy to say what is going to happen at the end of the book. The important part of the book really is the journey; it’s how Sarah gets to a solid position, personally, financially and emotionally. Some loose ends within the novel dangle; problems are mentioned then dropped. A few chapters later, the reader learns that the issue was magically resolved. In some ways, though, this actually has a positive effect on the novel; readers focus on Sarah’s journey and character development rather than the mundane problems of everyday life.
Just Breathe is a wonderfully enjoyable novel that is easy to get lost in. Fans of women’s fiction and romance will definitely enjoy this novel – it makes a great beach read.