"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

03 October 2016

2016 Book Review #59: As Close To Us As Breathing

What a good book!!

This book is set in Connecticut, on Long Island Sound.  It is told from a 12 year old girl's perspective about her family/extended family and what it was like being Jewish, growing up in a small town (Middletown) and spending summers at their cottage in Woodmont.  The book is also set in 1999, but the bulk of the story goes back to one summer..the summer of 1948.


Three  sisters, Ada, Vivie, and Bec, all inherited their parents' cottage on Bagel Beach as the Jewish section of Woodmont, a little ocean villlage is known as. Ada is married to Mort Leibretsky and has 3 children:  Howard (a teen), Molly (age 12, who is telling the story), and Davy (age 8).  Mort is deeply religious and a total Jewish rule follower and expects the entire family to be this way as well. He and Leo show up on the weekends, always expecting the Friday evening to include a proper Shabbos meal. 

Vivie is married to Leo Cohen and has a daughter named Nina (age 15).  We find out that Nina is struggling with her sexual identity unbeknownst to her parents.  Vivie is known as the household chef and the peacemaker.  She was once very wronged/betrayed by her sister Ava.

Bec, is unmarried yet has had an on-going affair with her boss, a dress shop owner, who is married, and named Tyler McMannis.  Bec works in the shop as a seamstress but takes each summer off to be with the extended family on vacation.

Nelson, Mort's brother, runs the business end of things in the Leibretsky Department store that he and Mort run.  Leo works for them.  They also employ Howard a few days a week.

During the summer of 1948, a terrible accident happens.....this summer, which was full of hope and self-discovery is turning into one of despair, loss, and a life-time of atonement for each family member.  One of the family members will die from this accident.

We see this family, each and every member and their backstory, through the eyes of Molly who was just 12 when she witnessed the accident.  Ava, Bec, Howard, Mort and Leo all feel guilty as well.

  But it is  Molly who learns to draw from her Aunt Bec's wisdom to free herself from guilt and memory.....but in doing so, it is a long journey.


This was a feel good book full of drama, and a study of human nature.  It touches on guilt, grief, loss, and the "boundaries of identity and love". It also reeks of family/cultural responsibility and parts of that just bugged me.  I get that it was a "thing" with Jewish families, but I ended up feeling so sorry for Nelson all at the same time that I just wanted to shake him and tell him "do it anyways!!".  (again, I don't want to reveal what the "it" is).

My favorite characters were Nina, Molly, Howard, and Bec.  I don't want to reveal too much about why they were my faves, as I don't want to spoil this story for you.....but....Molly reminded me of my self in some ways when I was under the age of 14 and Nina also reminded me of my self, especially the "bookworm" part.

The setting description and character development in this book is flawless.  Each character is richly described so that you feel like they are real and you could have a conversation with them.

It is a  bit sad in spots, a bit heavy in spots, but with an underlying theme of true hope and perseverance. 

The author does an excellent job in going through each main character's back story and their feelings.  Very well done.

I like too that the shift from 1999 to 1948 was not cumbersome....it all flowed very smoothly.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Jewish culture and a "feel good" family drama.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.

1 comment:

Susanne said...

Going on my list!