Title: Learning to Breathe
Author: Karen White
Release Date: March 5, 2007
Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Brenna O’Brien can’t take another blind date. She knows her sisters mean well, but just because they are all married and she’s not doesn’t mean they need to set her up. She likes living alone and playing it safe. Her job running a historic movie theater keeps her content – she doesn’t need any more disappointments in her life. But when Pierce, the old flame that abandoned Brenna a long time ago comes back to town, all of her resolve is tested.
Learning to Breathe is a wonderful Southern women’s fiction novel that is both amusing and heartwarming. Brenna, the main character, is very easy to like. She is vulnerable, so she has closed herself off from everyone that could hurt her, especially Pierce. She’s much more interested in playing it safe than taking a chance on being happy. It’s wonderful to watch her grow and change over the course of her own novel. When Brenna finally finds her own voice, it is beautiful to hear.
The mystery of the past within Learning to Breathe is well done, though the reader will likely figure out the answer long before Brenna does. However, this is a rare instance where that isn’t a frustration. The driving force in this novel is Brenna’s character development, not the mystery. Readers continue on with the story because they want to see Brenna take control of her life and assert herself. The slow revelation of the mystery’s answer is part of this; Brenna grows and changes as she gets more clues about what is going on. She figures out the mystery when she is ready to cope with the answer.
The description of the old movie theater that Brenna works at, as well as the other old buildings in town, is just an added bonus in Learning to Breathe. Karen White’s writing is cool and beautiful; she is an expert at writing details that evoke vivid images in the reader’s mind. It makes all of her books a joy to read.
Though Learning to Breathe isn’t necessarily a mystery like The House on Tradd Street or The Memory of Water, it’s still a wonderful piece of women’s fiction that is definitely worth reading. If you like Southern fiction or are a fan of Karen White, definitely pick this book up – you won’t regret it!