This novel is a day in the life Maggie and Ira Moran, who have been married for 28 years. They start the day by attending a friend’s funeral and end it by dealing with the consequences of Maggie’s unstoppable impulse to involve herself in other peoples’ lives. Although the action of the novel is contained within that one day, the narrative explores the relationship between Maggie and Ira as they reflect upon their lives and their marriage.
Tyler is immensely skilled at creating memorable characters. In this novel, as in many of her others, her main protagonists are somewhat flawed and very real. Although I don’t think I’m like Maggie or Ira – or at least, I hope I’m not like them - as someone who has been married to the same person for thirty-five years, I identified with some of their dilemmas. Moreover, the account of their relationship made me reflect on my own relationship. The novel moved me to laughter and to tears, which are the reactions I’ve come to expect in response to Tyler’s wonderful writing.
This book has sat on my bookshelf for the best part of twenty years. I thought I was embarking on a re-read, but once I started it became obvious that I hadn’t read it before. It was great to discover a “new” Anne Tyler novel. While it didn’t move me in the same way as The Accidental Tourist moves me, reading Breathing Lessons was an emotional journey, which I enjoyed sharing with my friend Jemidar. Anne Tyler is an amazing writer and this novel is a worthy winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
4.5 stars, but only because I prefer The Accidental Tourist.