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Learning to Breathe
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Learning to Breathe

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,403 ratings  ·  120 reviews
Brenna O'Brien doesn't believe in happy endings. Not since the love of her life, Pierce McGovern, left her years ago without a word. Now, she leads a quiet life surrounded by her four matchmaking sisters, running a historic movie theater and collecting old wartime letters. But she leaves the letters unopened, preferring to imagine their possibilities rather than risk being ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by NAL Trade
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Community Reviews

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Learning to Breathe is a novel that will take your breath away. It is the third novel by Karen White that once again exposes you to the heartbeat of life. Brenna, the main character, has been surviving for many years. Never letting her heart become attached and never choosing her own path. When you don't choose your own path, many people will "help" you choose the path they think is right for you. There in lies the dilemma for the book and for many people.
Life is what you make of it, if you put
Meh. This was a disappointing read after I enjoyed some of White's other works (The Tradd St. novels and On Folly Beach) so much. I don't understand why a woman would do nothing with her life for 16 years because her high school "love of her life" broke her heart. Or why somebody would write a book about such a wimp. The "big surprises" were obvious from the get go and it was irritating when the characters were all completely clueless, even when the truth was practically screaming at them.
Brenna is afraid to give her heart away ever since her true love left her many years ago. Now that she is in her 30's and running an historic movie theatre, he is back in town, turning her life upside down.

Very good story, lots of loose ends and they all get tied up at the end.

Favorite quotes from the book:]
"Life isn't perfect. It's not supposed to be. We all make mistakes. You bash your head against the wall and you get hurt, but you walk away and make the beset of it. And that's what makes it
Roberta Stewart
I can't claim that these are the best books ever written, yet I can't stop reading Karen White. They're formulaic, and always follow the same pattern: woman in late 20's/early 30's with troubled past she's trying to escape, ends up in small Southern town, handsome, troubled charming men appear, mystery, mayhem, romance, self discovery, etc. ensue, happy & neatly wrapped up ending. They're great beach reads, or airplane, or lazy afternoon. What hooks me is the descriptions of the southern pla ...more
I took a "leap of faith" and I was wrong! I guess I don't get people of the South - being French-Canadian living in MN and all - and their senseless religion and retarded values about marriage and family. The main character is in her early thirties and since she's not married, her life is already over! I would understand if the story happened in the fifties but no, it's in the nineties! Sometimes I choose novels too lightly as I don't want to know too much before starting but after I was done I ...more
I enjoyed this book very much! There are a number of stories that intertwine between the characters as the story moves along. Many life lessons are in this book and it might make you think about your own life and following your own passions. Definitely recommend!
Terry Christian
One of my new favorite authors. I liked some of her other books more, but this one is still good. I like that she always has some mystery in the story line.
After the love of her life walks out of her life, Brenna O'Brien leads a quiet life, refurbishing and running a historic movie theater. During the renovation she discovers a box of old war letters. For whatever reason, she doesn't open them at the time. She would rather imagine the possibilities they contain, rather than bad news and disappointment. Her former love, Pierce, comes back to his hometown where Brenna is, opening up old wounds, and forcing Brenna to re-examine her life's choices. The ...more
This was alright. Loved the story of WWII-- but the rest was typical. Not one of Ms. White's best. Nathan intrigued me, but it was obvious. Kathleen- didn't buy it. Too "let's close this story up, surprise!" for me. Pierce was a typical Hollywood hunk (was this written w/ movies in mind)? Brenna, seriously? Grow up. You're in your early thirties. I think she could have figured all that out much, much sooner. ALL OF IT (including her own life issues). Dooley was a poor name choice; I never bought ...more
‎"Life is meant to be more than existence. Fight for and hold onto your passion, whatever it is, but surrender gracefully when the passion is well spent. For it is through loss that we learn, and grief that we grow stronger, and living that we learn how to love. Everything is a choice, and by avoiding choices, one not only ensures that a wrong decision won't be made, but also steals a soul's chance to live, to learn, and to love." ~Learning to Breathe by Karen White

Learning to Breathe by Karen W
What to say about this book. Elements of it I loved, I picked it up mainly because there's an old theater that Brenna runs and I wanted to hear all about that. I wasn't disappointed in that area. Very interesting.

The slow dissemination of Brenna's horrible childhood was also good. Because if the author gave it to us all at once, it really would have just looked like a play for sympathy. I like that we liked Brenna before we ever heard about how hard it was for her growing up.

Pierce. Hmmm. A toug
Learning to Breath by Karen White, reminds me of the feeling I had reading The Great Indoors. A fun, easy to get sucked into, read.

Brenna O'Brien runs an old-town movie theater in her home town. She is surrounded by older sisters that are on a continuous quest to find her 'the perfect man'. This is a difficult task, in a town where everyone knows everybody, but the are persistent. Somehow, Brenna never gets past the first dates; one consisted of frog-catching.

Brenna just does not give in to th
One of those stories that's well-written enough and rich in character, but most of those characters are essentially one-dimensional with a single identifiable quirk, and ALL of them engage in the loathsome practice of not telling each other things any normal person would readily discuss when it clearly mattered. The truth is it's the author intentionally keeping things from the reader that become rather clear early on, and said reader then has to suffer through ham-handed "hints" which make thin ...more
Brenna O'Brien is a young woman with a past, content on running an historical movie theater and trying to survive hr overbearing sisters, who have been trying to set her up on dates ever since the love of her life abandoned her when she was just a teenager. When Pierce McGovern, her ex-boyfriend suddenly moves back to town to care for his sick father, he turns the unsuspecting Brenna's life upside down. When Pierce's father receives a box of old love letters, he asks Brenna to read them to him. ...more
Another great Karen White book. Honestly I love all her books, they all have a similar feel to them. The O'Brien sisters all want their younger sister Brenna to find a man and get married, so they constantly set her up on blind dates. There's been an Elvis impersonator, frog hunting on one date and numerous other disasters. I loved reading about Brenna's mother through the letters that were discovered. Of course who couldn't forget Aunt Dottie, she added comic relief. Loved the lengths the famil ...more
I liked the way the book was written, and there was wisdom throughout the pages. Yet I hated all the characters except for Aunt Dottie and Dooley. Seriously, none of them fought at all for love and just expected it to fall in their laps? All of them were wimps!
Desiree Gonzalez
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! Any story that makes me reflect on my own life, choices I've made and want to hang out with the main character is a fabulous read. The entirety of the novel was romantic in my ever so humble opinion and not in the "romance novel" way. It never felt unrealistic. Brenna wasn't a woman simply looking for love, but really wanted to find self-worth, even if she didn't know it at times. Her character was well developed and relatable, as were those in her life. I ...more
Amy Bradley
I finished this on the way back from vacation (10 hour car ride) plus several more at home. The main character owns an old theatre and is trying to restore it. She also collects letters from to/from soldiers during the war. She does not open the letters but instead imagines what they are about. She is from a Catholic family and has four other sisters. They live in the same town and are very close. They keep setting her up on hilarious blind dates (Elvis impersonator, wig salesman, one legged man ...more
So my new favorite author this fall is Karen White, who writes "grit lit" contemporary fiction set in various Southern cities. White's Sea Change, which I read last month, has earned a spot on my "Favorite Books Ever" shelf. Learning to Breathe is a tale about second chances--at life, love, and family relationships. White's novels always include rich and detailed architectural descriptions: in this book, it is the old movie theater. I also love the quirks she gives her characters--in this book, ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Linda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Brenna O'Brien is the youngest of five sisters. At 33, she owns the local movie theatre in a small town in Louisiana. Her sisters attempts at matchmaking provided some chuckles. Pierce McGovern, her high school sweetheart, returns to town to take care of his aging father. After 16 years, there is unfinished history between them.

From the first chapter, I was drawn into Brenna and her family. "Mostly, she was angry at herself for not being able to let go of the young girl who used to wish for pos
One of those books that frustrate you with heavy hints, but well-written enough to keep you going. I think my mother will love it.
This is another wonderful book by Karen White.

It has some of the best characters in it, I love all the sisters and the plot is very well developed I loved the theme of lost chances that ran throughout the book.

Karen White's characters always seem so real and I always miss them after I finish one of her books and this one is no exception.
I love Karen Whites books. She always has her main character dealing with life issues. I enjoy reading about how they deal with life and come out better for it.
Why is it that people in books always have these cool jobs doing exactly what they've always dreamed of doing? Owning a historic movie theater? really? She couldn't even afford to live in an actual apartment, but she owns a historic movie theater in a small town?

I read this book all the way through, didn't throw it against the wall, so I felt like I had to give it 3 stars, but the more I think about it the more I disliked it.

The plot twists were very transparent, and I wanted to strangle the mai
Sally Gibson
this book was pretty good. Anything Karen White writes is pretty good.
Couldn't get past the first chapter. It was very shallow and meaningless.
Brenna runs a historic movie theater and collects wartime letters but never opens the letters to read them. She prefers to imagine what might have been with the the letter writer and its recipient. Her past walks back into her life in the form of Pierce McGovern, the love of her life, and her world is turned upside down. His father invites her to read letters that he sent once upon a time to a very special woman and it causes her to question things about herself and her family. Brenna finds hers ...more
Barbra Bowers
Loved this book and all the characters.
Jeanne Truesdell
I liked Folly Beach much better. I thought that all these characters were weak and caused heartache due to their own stupidity, which I guess was the point. Maybe because my personality is a 180 of those in the books, I had a hard time relating.

The more I read of Karen White the more I'm enjoying her style. She always seems to have some sort of mystery wrapped into her plots with some sort of surprising twist. She is coming up to be a reliable good clean read. I found learning to breathe to be funny, engaging and full of little tidbits of profound "make you think" lines. What would you do if your boyfriend from high school showed up in town 15 years later to find you single with your older sisters anxiously engaged in trying to get yo
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“Life isn't perfect. It's not supposed to be. We all make mistakes. You bash your head against the wall and you get hurt, but you walk away and make the best of it. And that's what makes it life, Brenna, not perfection. You'll never find happiness if you only expect to find a perfect life. Happiness is something we reach for while we try to learn from our disappointments.” 12 likes
“Sometimes we make decisions because it seems to be the only path visible at the moment. It's only later that we see there was more than one path, but the others were blocked from our vision at the time. That's the thing with hindsight, you see. Even if you can see it clearly, there's no going back. It's at that point we need to turn around and stare ahead and make a new life.” 8 likes
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