"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coming Up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry - book review

Coming Up For Air
Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
Published: August 16, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 272
ISBN-10: 0312610394
ISBN-13: 978-0312610395
Genre:  Fiction (chick lit)
Source:  a copy was provided for this review which in no way influenced my opinion of this novel.
Available at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and local bookstores.

Synopsis and trailer as previously mentioned on this blog may be viewed by clicking on this link.

My Review:

An interesting quote dons the back cover of Coming Up for Air:  "Love.  Maybe there should be a hundred words for that one word.  It seems too complex a thing to write in four letters.  We have it; we don't have it.  We need it; we lose it.  We win it; we want it.  We weep for it; we let it go."

That is Ellie's life, really, and it mirrors her mother's own life with remarkable accuracy.  They both loved young.  Lost their loves, but never really lost the love.  Married another.  Her mother closed off her heart.  And this is where they differ.  Ellie saw this in her mother and she didn't want to live the same way, with a closed heart.  Ellie wanted to love, to be loved, to feel love and feel loved.  In her marriage, she recognized it wasn't like that.  She was unsure of her husband's love;  he manipulated through emotions, his words mean, then soft.  Opposites.  Ellie felt herself closing up.  Until the day her dead mother's journal was discovered, then Ellie saw the woman her mother once was.  So vivacious and caring.  Her activities that she had kept secret during the 60's came to light and Ellie discovered her mother's secret love, a name unknown, but there he was.  "This is the year He will love me."  Ellie's mother participated alongside this man, actively fighting the cause of desegregation.  But his name was never made known.  The more Ellie came to know her mother, through this journal, the more she understood herself and the more she desired  to know what it was she really wanted in her life.

Ellie needed to escape the bone-crushing thing that her marriage had become.  Her trip to the seaside cottage of her mother's best friend, is the beginning of understanding of both her mother and herself.  She finds the parallels in life at the sea side with her own life.  When she joins in a "Jubilee", we see how Coming Up For Air, came to be.  How this singular phrase summarizes the feelings in Ellie's own life.

When the conditions are right, the wind just so, the water temperature right, the moon a crescent, a Jubilee can occur.  It is when oxygen is depleted in the water depths and the shrimp, the fish, and the crustaceans fight for the surface, coming up to the shore for air.

"Each creature was in total disregard for the others.  They, each and every one, were fighting for oxygen and attempting to leave their life-giving bay to do so."
 "All they're trying to do is come up for air."
  "All of them - the shrimp, the flounder, the crabs -- they're all coming up for air.  Somehow, for reasons that take a scientist to explain, the oxygen level at the bottom drops too low and everything rushes to the surface." (page 83, Coming Up For Air)
Patti Callahan Henry writes an emotionally charged novel of love, secrets, loss and finding of oneself in her novel, Coming Up For Air.  With finesse, she captures the mood, the memories, making the characters come alive within the pages, encapsulating you in their stories.  I really enjoyed this novel.  Coming Up For Air is a lovely summer's read for the beach, easy to pick up and difficult to put down.  Much like the memory of a gentle breeze as it blows in off the ocean, a single breath of which carries a myriad of scents and sensations, Coming Up For Air lingers fondly in your mind and in your heart.

Some Favourite Quotes: 

“There are nights when the places and spaces in a life shift, disassemble, and then reassemble in the sliver of time between moments, between seconds. There are people who enter or reenter a life, who touch you or laugh with you in the middle of a jubilee, in the midst of nature's sacrifice, so that your life couldn't be the same even if you wanted it to be so.”

  • “Sometimes a voice can change a heartbeat.”
  • “And sometimes to forget the bad parts we have to forget the good parts.”
  • “Crossroads. We all have them, and they are so often seen only in hindsight.”

1 comment:

  1. Patti Callahan Henry's latest is a book to be savored in late summer. A woman on the brink--of being an empty nester, a grieving daughter, a troubled wife, finds solace and wisdom when she flees to a magical spot on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. If you love Jodi Picoult, Elin Hilderbrand or Anne Rivers Siddons, you'll treasure this book.


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