Note: The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander is another of those NetGalley books that I requested a lot time ago and received because they wanted me to write a review. Which I am finally getting around to now.
So The Art of Not Breathing is about Elsie Main and her family and the first few short chapters show exactly how dysfunctional that family is, dysfunction that I at least primarily stemmed from the incident five years before when her twin brother drowned.
First up is her father who she seems to think hates her and there certainly seems to be quite a bit of disdain there. He’s gruff and doesn’t pay much attention to the emotions of anyone else in his family. Her mother is an alcoholic and not necessarily very good at being a parent. And her brother, who starts out “normal” enough ends up with a very severe eating disorder. And Elsie is haunted by her dead twin Eddie who pops up at different times throughout the novel. But he’s not really ghost, he’s more of a feeling that Elsie has. She can and does picture him gamboling about when they’re on family outings. She pictures and feels how he’d react to certain situations that she gets herself in. Only every time she tries to even mention her brother her family gets really really upset.
Now one thing Elsie and Dillon have been told to avoid by their parents is the ocean. Their father especially gets almost violent if he even thinks his kids have gotten anywhere near the water. And at first Elsie and Dillon are okay with that but then Elsie ends up in the water and discovers that the longer she’s under the more she remembers about the day Eddie drowned and she realizes she doesn’t know everything about what happened that day. So Elsie starts learning how to free dive and surrounds herself with a new group of friends, friends that Dillon has a really big problem with.
As Elsie learns more about what happened her life is thrown into chaos. Her mother’s drinking appears to be getting worse and their father leaves. Dillon ends up wasting away with an eating disorder brought on by guilt. And when Elsie finally learns the events of the day it all happened it ties pretty much all of the characters and their issues together into one crazy, screwed up little bow which is perhaps the most unrealistic part of the whole book. (Really…it’s five years after the incident and somehow everyone even remotely involved ends up moving back at the same time and all end up meeting?)
All in all The Art of Not Breathing was a very interesting read. I liked the characters. I liked the plot and the mystery and how it all unfolded. And I liked how, after it was all more or less figured out we had just enough book left to get a pretty decent resolution.