All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Shallow Breath – Sara Foster

on February 7, 2013

Shallow BreathShallow Breath
Sara Foster
Random House AU
2012, 363p
Read from my TBR shelves

Two years ago, Desi made a huge mistake and she’s spent the time in between then and now, paying for it. Two years in prison, separated from her teenage daughter Maya, separated from the ocean she loves, that she’s grown up with, that’s just like breathing for her. Now she’s been released and she’s on her way home to try and pick up the pieces of her life, to make the amends that she needs to make both to her daughter and also to her childhood friend Rebecca, whose life she tore apart.

Maya has grown up in the time her mother has been gone. She’s had a roof over her head and people around her but she’s lost a lot. In the time her mother has been gone she’s finished school and gotten her driver’s license and become an adult. Maya’s feelings about her mother coming home are mixed – she still can’t understand how her gentle mother did such a thing but it’s always been the two of them together.

Jackson, Desi’s brother has blamed himself for what happened. He’s the one who told Desi the piece of information that tipped her over the edge that day. Jackson knows that Desi’s return will be further complicated by the person who awaits her arrival, someone that has convinced Jackson that he might feel something real for perhaps the first time in his life. But Kate has her secrets, some more innocent and some that are going to put lives at risk.

Desi is about to come home to a lot of secrets spilling open. Her best friend Pete has kept things from her for nearly twenty years, things that he felt would make it difficult for her to cope with the situation that she was in. But Kate’s arrival has changed everything and Desi is going to finally learn the truth about what happened to the man she loved all those years ago.

Shallow Breath is author Sara Foster’s third novel. I’ve read both of her previous novels, Come Back To Me and Beneath The Shadows. To support the release of her second novel, she came over to the east coast of Australia from Perth and did some events, one of which was at my local library. Since then I’ve awaited the release of this book eagerly. It came out when I left for holidays and I had a strict no-print book holiday packing policy so I had to wait until I returned home to purchase a copy.

The book is told from many points of view – Desi, Maya, Pete, Jackson and Maya’s father Connor as well as some others all have chapters that give their perspective into some element of the story. This is such a heartbreaking situation, when the novel opens. Desi has been in prison for two years after a moment of losing control. In her absence, Maya had to leave the shack she’d known as her home all her life and move in with her grandfather, Desi’s father, a distant figure who provided a roof over her head in the way of a caravan at his tourist park but precious little else. Desi’s close friend Pete keeps an eye on Maya, in a type of surrogate father role and Desi’s younger brother Jackson drifts in and out of her life depending on whether or not he’s working on dive boats at any given time. I think Maya was easily the character I connected with the easiest at the beginning of the story. She was at such a vulnerable age and she’d had her whole world rocked and lost the one person that had been her constant. Her mixed feelings about her mother coming home are so well captured.

There’s a strong theme of conservation, the preservation and respect of wildlife species, specifically dolphins for the story but it’s something that can be applied to any type of creature. Having been to Sea World last year and watched the dolphins perform for the crowds, I have to say, I didn’t give too much thought to where they might have come from or where dolphins in similar theme parks around the world might have come from. This book definitely made me think about that, the cruel way in which these animals can be herded and captured for the basis of being placed in captivity to amuse humans. The book also made me think about what happens to them when those amusement parks are forced to close down, which has no doubt happened to countless parks around the world. I admire people that have such strong convictions that they’re willing to go to such lengths to protect those that cannot really fight for their own rights.

Shallow Breath is a beautifully written novel that quite easily draws you in to this somewhat broken family and the fragile relationships that are struggling to knit themselves back together as Desi returns from prison. There’s a lot of wonderful portrayal of family and fractured connections without descending into the over-dramatic. There’s also a lot of education, about wildlife programs, conservation and the atrocities that humans commit against animals for little reason at all and at times that can take away from the people trying to rebuild and reconnect but it’s quite necessary to the story line. It further cements Sara Foster as a writer with a real talent for suspense and pacing and the ability to flesh out her novels with characters that are so real you can imagine yourself living next door to them.

A very interesting read that will have you invested from start to finish.

8/10

Book #16 of 2013

AWW2013This is the 6th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

I’d like to welcome Sara to my blog! Sara also very kindly agreed to talk about environmental activists and what it was like researching and writing them as characters in her novel.

Sara Foster hires1My latest novel, Shallow Breath, is about the pressing secrets that gather within one family over twenty years, but it also has a big backdrop of real-life conservation issues. My characters are all, one way or another, engaged with these issues, and one of my fascinations during the writing was dealing with the concept of an ‘activist’. For me, an ‘activist’ is a fairly empty term that generalises a whole range of people who have chosen to take action for countless different reasons. I wanted to look into the lives of people who choose to speak out or act over issues that are important to them, and not to present them as clear-cut caricatures to be summed up within a word, but with as much depth and complexity as the next person. I’m interested in what drives people to the decisions they make – whether that is to act or to stay passive. It’s all too easy to condemn someone for chaining themselves to a ship, or risking prison for speaking out about an issue … but are they foolish or foolhardy, or do they know something we don’t?

Because of my interests, and also for research, I have spent time with a number of those we’d call activists over the last few years. Sometimes I find their passion energising; at other times I have found their fervour unsettling. On occasion, particularly for those who deal with animal cruelty, it seems that their refusal to look away has taken its toll, whether in feelings of depression or defeat or anger. And at other times I am amazed by the buoyancy of those who witness terrible things daily and yet still seem to maintain their hope that humankind can be a force for compassion rather than cruelty. In desperation, these people are often willing to put themselves in terrible danger in order to try to protect the things they love. And facing them down is usually a government or organisation with tremendous money and power on their side.

Through Shallow Breath I hope I have written a story that will thrill and entertain, but also one that provides some insight into worlds that are often on the fringes of our experience. My characters may have different ways of fighting for what they believe in, but they all believe there are things in life that are worth fighting for.

You can find out more about Shallow Breath on my website: http://www.sarafoster.com.au/books-2/shallow-breath/ and more about the stories behind the story at www.shallowbreath.com

Many thanks for having me Bree!

And for a little fun – here’s an old pic of when I met Sara.

Meeting Sara FosterSara is second from the left and I’m on the far right.

 

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