“Maggie could’ve enjoyed the same starry-eyed view of the world, but instead she traded in her innocence for a dose of cruel reality. She accepted nothing at face value but fought to see what was behind the curtain. They were so different. Tara fantasized about having a different mom- maybe a school teacher or a nurse. Maybe her dad would come back and her mother would get better. Tara clung to these prodigious daydreams hoping one day they would come true.”
This is a story of a recovering alcoholic, confrontational mother, withdrawn daughter, and reluctant lover named Magdalene “Maggie” Fowler. While maintaining her sobriety, Maggie is granted residence in an apartment where she makes her occupation as a security guard for a nouveau riche band of brothers. She works the graveyard shift making the rounds at a construction company in Asheville, North Carolina where theft and burglary of copper wiring and heavy duty equipment is a realization that insights fear and trepidation in the hearts and minds. While waiting for immediate family to travel into town, Maggie is in charge of planning a birthday party for her elderly mother Annie who she maintains a conflicted relationship with after past degradation’s. While also having a troubled relationship with her daughter Tara, the re-emergence of past memories come flooding in, and a family celebration to plan in the coming days, it is hard to imagine Maggie’s longing for an alcohol-free lifestyle staying strong with this kind of pressure.
The characters in this story all have their personal struggles which for me is a strength to the development of the story and the building of opinion for the reader. With so much going on internally the author does a great job of not making this a soap opera and leaving it to dramatic realism. The pacing of the story is very well executed by the author, from the beginning of the book you are given the sense that there is a lot of underlying feelings that need to be resolved for a few of the characters. It is a slow crawl as the details are spoon fed to the reader, but eventually you come to the understanding that the purpose was to instill the feeling of each of their own inner struggle. After reading the entirety of the book I am left with an unsatisfactory feeling with how the story played itself out. The story simply unfolded before you, much in the same way anyone who had read the introduction would have been able to predict. When a writer constructs a book you anticipate them putting together a highly motivated piece that proposes more than serving an agenda. As a reader you hope for a beautifully woven tale that leaves you gripping the pages in anticipation for what comes next. My Next Breath had its moments of enthrallment, it unfortunately deflated by the end leaving a bad taste in my mouth after having high hopes from reading the first ninety pages or so.
“Do not declare me guilty! Let me know why you prosecute me. Is it good for You to oppress, To reject the work of Your hands and favor the plans of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh or do You see as a human sees? Are Your years like those of a man that You look for my wrongdoing and search for my sin, Even though You know that I am not wicked and that there is no one who can deliver from Your hands? Your hands shaped and formed me”
One feeling that is well-defined in this story is one of stigmatization and denunciation. As a person it is difficult to change the perception of others when you have exhibited signs to warrant the negative judgment. Throughout all of Maggie’s new found perspective and positivity and the wanting to make her mark in the world, the people around her still look through the same murky lenses and wait in anticipation for the next screw up. No matter how much people love you or may want the best for you, it is a behaviour taught by the addict to the family that reinforces their disbelief. The responsibility is on the addict to exhibit new behaviour, or if they become sick and tired of constantly proving themselves, accept the fact that you have changed and go on with your life. This reminds me of Silver Linings Playbook when everyone that comes into contact with the two main characters Tiffany and Pat, who both seem outwardly crazy, but because they both have been “clinically” diagnosed by Doctors they will always be the true “crazy people”. It changed my perspective on mental disorders in that you should accept the fact that you are a little crazy because in reality, everyone is, they just don’t know it yet.
My problem with this book, and one I have with books that fall in the Christian fiction genre is the overt preaching of God’s word. I would accept part of the blame if I had been aware of the presence of the Bible as a theme throughout the book and still managed to complain about it. It’s not a complaint it’s just something that bothers me because the message tends to make me feel like a bad Christian because I don’t practice my faith at the level of the main characters. Who wants to leisurely read a book that reminds them that they could do so much more in terms of output? Not me!!! Unfortunately, from reading the blurb I was not anticipating a Christian Fiction novel. Lucky for me the rest of the novel did enough to concentrate on complex familial dynamics to maintain my attention despite the consistent references to the Lord. This book is recommended to avid followers of Christ that enjoy the uplifting nature that God can bring to the low-lights of the world making them shine bright through hard work, dedication and trust. If you are put off by the presence of religion in your realistic fiction I would politely advise you to steer clear of this book.