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The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
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The Air We Breathe

by Andrea Barrett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4513834,533 (3.63)58
  1. 00
    The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald (betsytacy)
    betsytacy: If the tuberculosis treatment aspects of The Air We Breathe are of particular interest, I'd recommend Betty MacDonald's humorous memoir of her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium in the late 1930s.
  2. 00
    The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (shearon)
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» See also 58 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I love the collective narrator and the mystery and the people. ( )
  BridgitDavis | Sep 21, 2017 |
@ Sanatoriums in upstair N.Y. patients took "cure" of rest + open air (or on Boats in harbor)
Leo + Eudora

In the fall of 1916, America prepares for war—but in the community of Tamarack Lake, the focus is on the sick. Wealthy tubercular patients live in private cure cottages; charity patients, mainly immigrants, fill the large public sanatorium. Prisoners of routine, they take solace in gossip, rumor, and—sometimes—secret attachments. But when the well-meaning efforts of one enterprising patient lead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment.
  christinejoseph | May 15, 2017 |
This novel moved way to slow and nothing much happens. The narrators are a group of patients in Tamarack Lake Sanatorium who are all there for a cure from TB. ( )
  Smits | Aug 29, 2016 |
The Air We Breathe is narrated by an unnamed patient residing in a sanatorium in the Adirondacks as the first World War approaches. The patients, all of whom suffer from tuberculosis, have been sent here by the state; most of them are poor immigrants, many of them Jews, Russians, and Germans. Because of the healthful environment, many private homes in the area also cater to wealthier TB victims. One such home is run by Mrs. Martin, with the help of her teenage daughter, Naomi. When one of her tenants decides to start a Wednesday learning circle at the state institution, the story is set into motion.

Although Miles's lectures on fossils initially bore the men, the Wednesday group flourishes when others share their expertise and life stories. There's Ephraim, a communal apple farmer; Irene, the Russian radiologist; and Leo, a former chemist who attracts the romantic interest of both Naomi and her friend Eudora, an aide at the sanitorium who longs to follow in Irene's footsteps. Meanwhile, Miles has fallen in love with Naomi, who has been serving as his driver. As one would expect, conflicts develop from misplaced romantic notions, and even the serene town of Tamarack Lake is not immune to the effects of the rising war in Europe and the political fallout at home.

Barrett is often praised for bringing science and technology into her novels, and there are lengthy sections here on chemistry, radiology, fossils, etc. I have to admit that, while I was engaged with the characters, I found the science rather awkwardly integrated and intrusive: it felt like the author was writing a novel to expound on scientific topics rather than writng a novel in which science plays a role. ( )
2 vote Cariola | Nov 6, 2014 |
I've been a fan of Andrea Barrett's work for a while: I enjoy how she brings her knowledge of science and natural history into her novels, and this is no exception. The Air We Breathe is set in a small Adirondack town, centered around a state sanatorium and a private rest home for tuberculosis patients, and Barrett lingers over treatment practices, early radiography, and chemistry. The story is well told, and I quite liked how Barrett handled the narration, which is rather unconventional (no spoilers here - go read the book).

As I was reading I kept thinking that I recognized some of the names, or characters - and sure enough, in a note at the end, Barrett clarifies that people related to characters from her earlier stories did make appearances. Another element of Barrett's work(s) that I really like (and which may well prompt me to go back and some of her earlier stories again. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Aug 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andrea Barrettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nölle, KarenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Men are like plants; the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we drive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey; the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment. Here you will find but few crimes; these have acquired as yet no root among us. ---J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur: Letters from an American Farmer; Letter III, "What Is an American?" (1782)
In the first place, tuberculosis is largely a disease of the poor--of those on or below the poverty line. We must further realize that there are two sorts of poor people--not only those financially handicapped and so unable to control their environment, but those who are mentally and morally poor, an lack intelligence, will power, and self-control. The poor, from whatever cause, form a class whose environment is difficult to alter. And we must further realize that these patients are surrounded in their homes by people of their own kind--their families and friends--who are also poor. It is this fact which makes the task so difficult, and makes the prevention and cure of a preventable and curable disease a matter of utmost complexity. --Ellen N. LaMotte, The Tuberculosis Nurse: Her Functions and Qualifications (1915)
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For Heather
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Imagine a hill shaped like a dog's head, its nose pointed south and resting on crossed front paws.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393061086, Hardcover)

The exquisite, much-anticipated new novel by the author of Ship Fever, winner of the National Book Award.

In fall 1916, Americans debate whether to enter the European war. "Preparedness parades" march and headlines report German spies. But in an isolated community in the Adirondacks, the danger is barely felt. At Tamarack Lake the focus is on the sick. Wealthy tubercular patients live in private cure cottages; charity patients, mainly immigrants, fill the large public sanatorium. For all, time stands still. Prisoners of routine and yearning for absent families, the patients, including the newly arrived Leo Marburg, take solace in gossip, rumor, and—sometimes—secret attachments.

An enterprising patient initiates a weekly discussion group. When his well-meaning efforts lead instead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment. The conjunction of thwarted desires and political tension binds the patients so deeply that, finally, they speak about what's happened in a single voice.

The Air We Breathe, though entirely self-contained, extends the web of connected characters begun with Ship Fever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Detached from the rest of the country on the eve of World War I, the tuberculosis-stricken residents of an Adirondack lakeside sanatorium are housed in accordance with their economic status and languish in their isolation before an enterprising patient initiates a weekly discussion group.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393061086, 0393333078

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