Some­thing like Breath­ing

An­gela Read­man

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - AIMEE JODOIN

And Other Sto­ries (JAN­UARY) Soft­cover (256pp) 978-1-911508-30-4

On a re­mote is­land off the coast of Scot­land, two young girls nav­i­gate the judge­ment of their peers and the adults in their lives. An­gela Read­man’s Some­thing like Breath­ing pairs nu­anced ob­ser­va­tions with an at­mo­spheric set­ting to tell an evoca­tive story of grow­ing up with a se­cret.

So­cial Lor­rie be­friends tor­tu­ously shy Sylvie when her fam­ily moves to her grand­fa­ther’s dis­tillery af­ter he is in­jured in an ac­ci­dent. De­jected by this sud­den change of pace, Lor­rie nev­er­the­less takes ad­van­tage of her cir­cum­stances where she can, fall­ing in with the pop­u­lar crowd and keep­ing a pos­i­tive out­look. How­ever, mys­te­ri­ous Sylvie keeps her per­pet­u­ally in­trigued––es­pe­cially af­ter Lor­rie be­lieves she sees Sylvie bit­ing the bloody neck of a bird.

Lor­rie’s care­ful un­der­stand­ings of the peo­ple around her—de­picted through eval­u­a­tions of their “nose,” “palate,” and “fin­ish,” as if they were the whiskey her grand­fa­ther pro­duces—is tested by the be­tray­als that peo­ple com­mit. Syvlie, too, is more pre­co­cious than she lets on, keep­ing a di­ary that re­veals the ut­ter depth of her in­tense feel­ings, es­pe­cially in re­gards to her re­la­tion­ship with her border­line abu­sive mother.

The in­hab­i­tants of this small Scot­tish is­land come into fo­cus through the eyes of these two girls as they grow and learn about the world and them­selves. Se­cret love af­fairs, deep-seated re­grets and yearn­ings for com­fort, fears that shape the course of re­la­tion­ships: these are all made pain­fully plain to the reader, while as­tute Lor­rie misses them even as she de­scribes the world around her in her own words.

This painstak­ingly ren­dered, gor­geous novel is per­vaded by a sense of tense mys­tery while main­tain­ing a close nar­ra­tive dis­tance. Some­thing like Breath­ing is a skilled and beau­ti­ful por­trait of a won­der­ful gift masked as dark­ness.

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