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Breathing Lessons

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  14,071 ratings  ·  708 reviews
"Breathing Lessons" is the wonderfully moving and surprising story of Ira and Maggie Moran. She's impetuous, harum-scarum, easygoing; he's competent, patient, seemingly infallible. They've been married for 28 years. Now, as they drive from their home in Baltimore to the funeral of Maggie's best friend's husband, Anne Tyler shows us all there is to know about a marriage - t...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by Berkley Trade (first published January 1st 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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K.D. Absolutely
Mar 28, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Pulitzer
Shelves: drama, pulitzer
Breathing Lessons is about a couple, Maggie and Ira, who has been married for 28 years. Their son, Jesse, a father of a toddler, is facing a divorce. Their teenage daughter, Daisy is about to enter college so their house is now an empty nest.

Life is a journey and, for a spouse like me, marriage is that part of the journey where you are somebody paddling the boat with you. My daughter is also heading to college a couple of months from now. Although she will be still be staying with us, I know tha...more
Kim

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 charact...more
Nancy
When reviewing books with others--whether in text-based or face to face discussions--I am always irritated when readers don't like a book because they "don't like" certain characters in the book. I want to remind them that a) these people are, umm, fictional and b) a diverse mix of characters drives a story, makes it interesting. The truly gifted author fashions characters with weaknesses and flaws as well as strengths and charming bits--the fun is in watching the interplay. When a reader doesn'...more
Bev
I read this one a while back but wanted to make sure I added it to my list to round out the other Tyler books I have read recently. This book is a perfect example of Tyler's gift for characterizing everyday, ordinary people as flawed yet endearing in their quirkiness. Yes, Maggie can be awfully irritating in her botched attempts to fix things in the lives of her loved ones, yet you can't help but love her for her sincerity and goodness of heart. Her relationship with her long-time husband Ira is...more
Nancy (NE)
Pulitzer in 1989. Bittersweet story of a family, a marriage, a woman's life, both humorous and tragic in its dreams unrealized. I needed breathing lessons when I was done. I wasn't sure whether to smile or cry. Tyler offers a glimpse of the poignant emotional depths of ordinary living. Maggie Moran is the pivotal character. One who doesn't see her husband or her children with the clearest lens. She sees them as she wants them to be, not as they really are. She is also one who tries to fix things...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
This is a wonderful, quiet but powerful book, with very rich characterization and an interesting structure. It uses a condensed "day-in-the-life" timeline divided into three parts. The first part is the drive to the funeral that Maggie and Ira attend told from Maggie's POV; the second part the drive home told from Ira's; the third part the coming together of themes and events that occur along the way.

I esp. enjoyed how Tyler explores the approach-avoid/love-hate terrain of relationships, where p...more
Helynne
I enjoyed The Accidental Tourist so much that I was surprised that I found this book by Anne Tyler so much less enjoyable. Breathing Lessons won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1989, which is a amazing honor. To tell you the truth, I can't really see that much merit in this book, although I will admit that Tyler's writing style is skillful. Nevertheless, this novel reminded me a little of Gustave Flaubert's philosophy when he began writing Madame Bovary. He said, "I want to write a book about...more
Richard
. A novel. This book won Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Generally Pulitzer Prize winner’s books highlight some aspect of American Life. This book takes place in one day in Philadelphia area as a husband and wife travel by car to and from funeral of a friend. Various stops along the way and back highlight the dysfunction. The book consists of the conversations and actions of this husband and wife as they drive and the people they mix in with. They have a snotty high school senior daughter, and a divorce...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Did they really give her the Pulitzer for this thing?! How utterly appalling! This may qualify as the stupidest book I have ever read. I did not like even one of the characters. Not one! They were annoying and weak and petty.
I really wanted to hurl Maggie from the highest bridge just to get her to SHUT UP!
Dumb dumb dumb dumb story. Shouldn't have bothered to finish it, but I did. So...more fool me.
Vale
Il romanzo di Anne Tyler, premio Pulitzer nel 1989, descrive la vita coniugale di Maggie e Ira Moran. La storia si snoda nell'arco di una giornata, ma è costellata di digressioni e flash back che educono il lettore sulla vita dei coniugi Moran e sui loro figli.
Si respira tanta tristezza in questo romanzo, Maggie, la protagonista, lotta con protervia affinché le cose cambino perché crede nei buoni sentimenti, mentre Ira, il marito neghittoso e disincantato, si esprime attraverso i testi delle ca...more
Shay Caroline
I needed something to read until the book I *really* want to read arrived in the mail, so I grabbed this old Anne Tyler off the shelf. I used to read Tyler a lot; I loved "The Accidental Tourist", liked "Saint Maybe" and "A Patchwork Planet", found "Celestial Navigation" almost unbearably sad, and had read eight of her novels all told.

Perhaps my tastes have changed, or I simply reached my limit. Maybe what I found endearing twenty-five years ago just annoys me now. In any event, "Breathing Less...more
Vivien Fung
Look, maybe my rating is too harsh. Maybe when I'm 50-something, with kids, and am too well-meaning to face actual facts and listen to what people are actually saying before coming to conclusions and jumping to action, and am too intrusively optimistic to tell things truthfully (choosing instead to dress facts up in order to needle people into doing what I think they need to do), and am too indignant to ever admit liability or fault for anything, I will enjoy this book.

Until then, 1.5/5 (no half...more
Tamara
My favorite theme running through this book was the idea of "human wastefulness." It's not talking about physical wastefulness, but the idea that people waste so much time on things that don't matter. “For the past several months now, Ira had been noticing the human race’s wastefulness. People were squandering their lives, it seemed to him. They were splurging their energies on petty jealousies or vain ambitions or long-standing, bitter grudges. It was a theme that emerged wherever he turned, as...more
Lynai
This book is just so real, it feels like I'm reading an autobiography. More detailed write up coming up.

***UPDATE!!!***

I first came to know about Anne Tyler when K.D., a fellow book lover, posted on a thread in The Filipino Group that this author is one of his favorites. K.D. recommended three of Anne Tyler’s books – Breathing Lessons, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and Accidental Tourist. I already have copies of the first two and on the hunt for the last one. I decided to read Breathing Le...more
Omer
Why did I even bother with this one? Perhaps because I thought the cover looked nice and dreamy. Birds - check. Infinity sign - check. A couple taking a roadtrip that allows them to view each other in a new light - check. All of it misleading. Remind me to not go for covers (which I think I will regardless).

I think I am not really the demographic this book is intended for, but boy was this a tough read. Somewhere around the middle, I actually skimmed through a couple-forty pages and still the pl...more
Susan Johnson
I can't believe I finally finished this mish mash. I only listen in the car so you can see I don't drive much. I found the narrator so boring that she almost lulled me to sleep. I didn't care for the lead character, Maggie. She wasn't really of this world. She would change facts to suit her agenda. Then she had no idea how her actions effected people. I can not believe this drivel won a Pulitzer Prize. Maybe it was the narration.
Stevecrandell
This story is a bit like a Twinkie. I was expecting something more serious, more dense. Twinkies are dense in their own way, but there’s still all that fluff. A guilty pleasure for some, an invitation to sharp intestinal pain for others.

There are lots of funny moments. Maggie Moran, the ditzy doting meddling mom at the center of the story, is a queen of unintentional comedy. She exaggerates and lies and ignores the obvious, in an effort to rearrange everyone’s life to suit her rose-tinted visio...more
Annie
I always feel a little sad when I finish a book. i miss the characters. Anne Tyler makes her characters so real and identifiable. There is a saying in the front of the book that says something like, "Life always seems to be changing and yet somethings never change." It is so true. I enjoyed this book.
Michelle Hendricks
Had to 'read' this one for book club (the book never arrived in time from the library so I opted for the movie). James Garner and Joanne Woodward were the main characters Ira and Maggie. I like both those actors, but the story got on my nerves. I counted myself lucky to have spent a shorter time on the movie than plowing through the book. Having said that, I think my Grandmother would have liked this book.

Here is one person's review of the book that I liked:
'The book did make me chuckle several...more
Marie Hertle
Though I laughed aloud frequently, I noted the self-defeating ways people hinder relationships. For example, I was reminded of several people advising me to never allow children to come between the marriage relationship. Maggie seemed to fall for Jesse's sweet talk far too often. Also, in relating to their children, Maggie seemed to see them through rose-colored glasses, whereas Ira seemed to never have anything positive to say about Jesse. Obviously, both of them approached Jesse from opposite...more
Tania
I am a huge Anne Tyler fan - I want to read her entire collection. Because this novel won a Pulitzer, I was concerned it would not live up to the hype. My concerns were unwarranted. Tyler is a highly skilled writer who is able to take ordinary people and make them both unique and interesting. She has a very important message to give readers about love, marriage, and life. The main characters are at a stage in their lives where they are looking back and trying to figure out how they got to be whe...more
Bobby
I initially read this book when it was first published and so enjoyed it. I related to the way Maggie saw people as a glorified version rather than who they truly were, the way she saw the best in everyone. My daughter just said to me yesterday that I viewed everything from a glorified bubble where I saw only the best in everyone. In some ways that is not a bad place to be, but I could also relate to the vulnerabilities when one lives in such a bubble, the disillusionment and disappointments whe...more
Cindi
I'm a fan of Anne Tyler. I think she is one of the most interesting character writers out there. Her characters and situations are realistic and true but she has such insight into human nature that she can make anything from adoption (Digging to America) to marriage (The Amateur Marriage) interesting.

I found a copy of Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler at the library book sale last month and I snatched it up. I finally got a chance to read it this week. It is similar to the other books that I've r...more
Anna Ligtenberg
ISBN 042511774X - In most cases, you open a book expecting to like a character. Not necessarily a specific character, just anyone. You anticipate feeling empathy toward someone between the covers. Breathing Lessons disappointed me on that front. Not for good, but at first. In the first few pages, Maggie is just a scattered-brained, somewhat self-centered nitwit and Ira seems like an idiot to put up with her. This is an odd way to introduce characters, and if you are like me, you'll be tempted to...more
Liz Zubritsky
This beautifully written book gives us an intimate look at the life of Maggie and Ira Moran, a Baltimore couple whose 28-year-long marriage is characterized by routine, except when Maggie's impulsiveness diverts them. Well-meaning Maggie is a case study in ADD -- inattentive except to certain events, inadvertently clumsy with other people's feelings, and impetuous. Ira, dependable and stoic, hangs on for the ride and does what he can to contain the chaos. They are as real as the folks down the b...more
Philip
Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons is a giant of a book, a giant because of the way in which it gently wraps you into its characters’ world and allows you to feel their lives being lived. It’s a giant of a book in a very small world, a world inhabited by Maggie and her husband, Ira, and, it seems, by precious little else. They are long married, happy, perhaps without really knowing it, and replete with generally unacknowledged failure.

Breathing Lessons starts with Maggie picking up the family car af...more
Mowey
i was underwhelmed. i might have had high hopes for this because of the previous Pulitzers like the epic Middlesex and The Hours that i took so much delight and passion in reading. or that's entirely not true, because i don't form expectations on books based on titles and accolades alone. i don't draw expectations, period (see how i both loved Her Fearful Symmetry and The Bluest Eye with equal devotion and fondness). it is based on affinity and personal connection with these books.

or maybe, i'v...more
Vishy
I discovered Anne Tyler’s ‘Breathing Lessons’ by luck. One of my favourite bookshops sends a monthly newsletter. They still do it the old-fashioned way – they print out a 20-page glossy newsletter, there is a letter from the publisher on the first page, and there is a three or four page literary fiction section and they send it to their readers every month. I browse through this newsletter every month and sometimes I buy some of the featured books. Sometimes I buy more than my share as I have be...more
Tusam D.Clide
Reading takes a heavy grooving of endurance. Even more so for me, a male reader, when reading the works of literature by female writers. The fundamental difference and the commonly insisted indifference between male and female are most apparent when a female writer narrates her story to me. I find ‘selfishness’, quite common element of any human, to be the key. How it is portrayed. How it is rendered. How it is justified (but most of times excused). How it is understood by the writer through per...more
Jennifer
I read this novel for Book Club, and having never read Anne Tyler, was unsure what to expect. A few acquaintances told me they either hated it or disliked it so much that they didn't finish it, so I had a few qualms before starting. I'm glad to say that I actually came away with a positive feeling about it.

I suppose that I felt that a number of the characters (Maggie, Jesse) reminded me of members of my family, so I was able to easily get into the story. Maggie is the central character, and alth...more
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Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner's Goodbye is Anne Tyler's nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and...more
More about Anne Tyler...
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“I mean you're given all these lessons for the unimportant things--piano-playing, typing. You're given years and years of lessons in how to balance equations, which Lord knows you will never have to do in normal life. But how about parenthood? Or marriage, either, come to think of it. Before you can drive a car you need a state-approved course of instruction, but driving a car is nothing, nothing, compared to living day in and day out with a husband and raising up a new human being.” 12 likes
“Why did popular songs always focus on romantic love? Why this preoccupation with first meetings, sad partings, honeyed kisses, heartbreak, when life was also full of children's births and trips to the shore and longtime jokes with friends? Once Maggie had seen on TV where archaeologists had just unearthed a fragment of music from who knows how many centuries B.C., and it was a boys lament for a girl who didn't love him back. Then besides the songs there were the magazine stories and the novels and the movies, even the hair-spray ads and the pantyhose ads. It struck Maggie as disproportionate. Misleading, in fact.” 5 likes
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