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The Air We Breathe | [Andrea Barrett]

The Air We Breathe

In the fall of 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.
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Publisher's Summary

In the fall of 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. 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.

©2007 Andrea Barrett; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America

What the Critics Say

"This expertly paced and thoughtfully written book is ample testament to [Barrett's] gifts." (Elle)
"Barrett [writes in the] collective we, the voice of the crowd of convalescents. Details of New York tenements and of the sanitarium's regime are vivid and engrossing." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (18 )
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  •  
    Judith Kerman Bay City, MI United States 11-18-07
    Judith Kerman Bay City, MI United States 11-18-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "Rich and absorbing"

    I love Andrea Barrett's story collection, Ship Fever, and this new novel is also terrific: complex, absorbing and intelligent, full of history but also good characters and a good story. There are even some elements of mystery.

    As in Barrett's short stories, several of this novel's main characters are people who love science. Whether professional scientists or amateurs, they live ordinary and extraordinary lives that are often distorted by gender, social class, and politics. The complex but entirely credible plot plays out the combined effects of war, mass migration, chance, and individual psychology in the lives of several appealing and interesting main characters.

    The reader is very good, although occasionally he gets his accents mixed up. This is a great book for a long, long drive.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Le Center, MN, USA 04-23-09
    Julie Le Center, MN, USA 04-23-09 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    "Big world/little world"

    This book is the perfect example of how the world's big events are just background to our private dramas for most of us, and what a struggle it is to escape from the confines of our small lives and our self-delusions into something bigger and more alive. It gives you a lot to think about.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lyn LADY LAKE, FL, United States 03-05-08
    Lyn LADY LAKE, FL, United States 03-05-08 Member Since 2007

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "so/so"

    a good story with interesting historical background but I never quite got involved in the characters

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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