The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
A Novel

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Synopsis

"An evocative panorama of America...on the cusp of enormous change" (Newsday) by the National Book Award-winning author of Ship Fever.


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. Reading group guide included.
 

About Andrea Barrett

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Andrea Barrett is the author of The Air We Breathe, Servants of the Map (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Voyage of the Narwhal, Ship Fever (winner of the National Book Award), and other books. She teaches at Williams College and lives in northwestern Massachusetts.
 
Published October 17, 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company. 300 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Air We Breathe

Kirkus Reviews

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Shadows revealed by X-ray machines and generated by the gathering momentum of World War I darken and enrich the texture of Barrett's demanding, rewarding sixth novel (Servants of the Map, 2002, etc.).

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

The New York Times

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A novel of tuberculosis and passion in the Adirondacks, circa 1916.

Sep 30 2007 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Picking up connected characters from her 1996 National Book Award–winning story collection Ship Fever , the latest from Barrett follows her Pulitzer Prize f

Aug 06 2007 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

Book Reporter

Rewarding both longtime readers who will recognize the mention of familiar names and thoughtful readers who will marvel at her stylistic facility, THE AIR WE BREATHE will leave Barrett’s readers reflecting on how her themes of war, suspicion and intolerance still offer contemporary relevance near...

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

BookPage

"When she tried to summarize for us some of the stories she'd treasured," recalls the faceless narrator of the book, "she grew frustrated and said that with all writers, but especially Chekhov, summary ruined everything: beauty lay in the story itself, the particular arrangement of sentences."

Mar 09 2014 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

Open Letters Monthly

While initially The Air We Breathe’s setting seems to revolve around a theme of medicine and public health similar to that of Ship Fever, once the war enters this novel its landscape explodes into a different sphere of relevance—a sphere that forces its characters to cross moral minefields in the...

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Bookmarks Magazine

Though The Air We Breathe strikes a sharp allegorical note with civil liberty issues today, it is not Barrett's strongest work.

Dec 03 2007 | Read Full Review of The Air We Breathe: A Novel

Chronogram

By the end of the novel, readers have become an intimate part of Tamarack society, fortunate to have been allowed in, elated and humbled by the experience: “This is what happened, we say together.

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Reader Rating for The Air We Breathe
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