Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Breathing Room by Patricia Elam

I recently discovered DC By the Book which is a project that “explores the richness of non-Federal civic life in Washington and its character as a city, as brought to life by fiction.” After spending some time on their website, I marked three books as high priority reads. Breathing Room is the one that I chose to read first since it was a featured book at the time that I visited the site.

Set entirely in Washington, DC, Breathing Room is told by Norma, her best friend Moxie, and Moxie’s daughter, Zadi. Norma, owner of an up and coming photography business, begins having an extramarital affair after the remnants of a tragic event slowly eat away at what was once a fairytale relationship. After telling Moxie about the affair, their friendship begins to fall apart because of Moxie’s disapproval. To complicate matters even more, Norma begins questioning her worth as a mother when she starts to have challenges loving her toddler son.   

Meanwhile, Moxie is navigating her way through the challenges of co-parenting a teenage daughter. She is a probation officer who struggles to keep from caring too much about her clients. Deemed as being afrocentric, Moxie’s black consciousness becomes burdensome for both her best friend and her daughter. As Moxie begins to understand that her mother’s moods, and subsequently her death, during Moxie’s childhood were due to mental illness, she’s afraid of what will happen after Zadi makes a decision that sends Moxie spiraling into depression.

I enjoyed Zadi’s story the most.  It’s surely because I was around the same age as Zadi at the time this book was published. Her story is shared through her diary and it was an unexpected walk down memory lane for me. As I suspect is the case with most teenagers, Zadi has to balance doing what is right, according to her mother, with her own heart’s desires. We watch her make decisions about everything from losing her virginity, to deciding who is worthy of her friendship.  When she begins secretly dating one of her mother’s clients, thing get interesting.

Even though it sounds like a lot, it was a balanced look at the lives of two women and a teenager and the things they encounter on a day to day basis. I actually considered it to be so-so, because it was too every day, so to speak.  A few major developments occur well over half way into the book which made it seem more like a novel and a lot more exciting.

In the end, this book illustrates how there are two sides to every story. And they can both be right. I don't feel strongly either way about the book but  Amazon and Goodreads reviewers love it! Although I do adore the cover. It made it to the Reading Has Purpose Cover Lovin' Page.

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Breathing Room on Amazon

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