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Coming Up for Air

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  2,389 ratings  ·  385 reviews
On the coast of Alabama, there is a house cloaked in mystery, a place that reveals the truth and changes lives...

Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband – between her reality and the woman she wants to be – she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life. But eve
Hardcover, 261 pages
Published August 16th 2011 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2011)
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3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,389 ratings  ·  385 reviews

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Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
I received this book from goodreads as an advance readers edition. I probably would not have finished it if I had not felt obligated to finish it in order to give a fair review.

I have read this author before and I love her style of writing. She is descriptive in a lyrical way. Her writing extracts emotions from within.

With that said, outside of her way with words, I did not like this book. I could not relate to the main character at all and found her to be a selfish, lying, unlikeable person.
Nov 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
Ugh. I always hate it when I don't like a book. Though I had a bad feeling about this one from the get-go. I was just hoping my feeling was wrong and that everything would turn out better. Look out, spoilers abound.

The troubled marriage. I felt they really didn't get into it about what the actual "problems" in this marriage were until near the end. And I suppose I understand. I just want to know why in the world she started dating (and then ended up marrying) someone who is "charming" and she "
Jan 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
I received this book as a good reads first reads. I completely agree with what others have said that gave this story 1 or 2 stars. I became increasingly agigtated as the story went on, especially towards the very end, aproximately the last 20 pages or so, every page I turned I hope it was the last. Complete waste of my time! I hope goodreads starts giving out books that are actually worth reading.
Sep 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Snore. Another Lifetime movie script from Patti Callahan Henry. Two thirds into the book I couldn't muster up enough interest to find out what happened. Plastic characters and a less than intersting storyline. I won't be rushing to pick up any of this author's future books.
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I forced myself to finish this book this morning so I can go on to my next book. All I can say is slow and boring.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
It wasn't the worst or the best of my reads, but it did have a plot, a relative easy to follow timeline, and a mystery that did keep me going. It didn't rivet me to the pages, it wasn't thought-provoking or entertaining, and I didn't feel any connection to the characters. It was just an ok read.

The plot is one that has been done and redone and this one had no real twists to make it interesting.
Just a few days before her mother, Lily, died, Ellie's 48 paintings of flowers had been on exhibit with
Jun 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Patti Callahan Henry is a new author to me but that won’t last for long because she’s already become a trusted friend. Her novel is a poignant and fragile story of love loss, love gained and what the brokenness of a heart does to a person’s perspective on life, whether they learn from that loss, wallow in it or close their heart to it. It’s one woman’s search for something she didn’t know she was looking for. It was a glimpse of the present and the future by looking to the past. Her narrative is ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Review posted 8/18/2011 at Owl Tell You About It.

This is one of those times where I feel like I’m at a loss for words. How do you explain something so emotionally intense. I’ll start by simply saying you should read this book. It’s just… really good. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and touching all at the same time. It’s the first book I’ve read by Patti, but it most certainly isn’t the last. I’ve already be reading the synopses of her other books, trying to decide which one I want to read firs
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this, the fourth novel of Patti Callahan Henry that I have read in the last month. As with all her protagonists, the main character in this novel, set in the deep south, was fraught with angst over the state of her marriage, and her longing for an old flame who was very important to her when she was young. Once again, Henry has created well developed characters with attributes and flaws. They make mistakes and decisions they may or may not regret, just as we all do over many ...more
Jun 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2011, arc
First, I love Southern Literature, and I think it's because it was Southern Literature that originally made me passionately love to read. (Thank you, Pat Conroy!) To be fair, there are some truly wonderful parts to this book, which allows me to give it three stars - though, the parts I hated made this difficult for me to do.

I dislike spoilers, so my review may be a little vague on details. Forty-seven year old Ellie has just lost her mother and is also suffering from empty-nest syndrome with her
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: gr-giveaways
I won a copy of this book through goodreads first reads program!

OK first I love books set in the south! So I was pretty excited to read this. While I found most of it enjoyable, it wasn't what I expected.

Coming Up for Air opens with forty-something Ellie Calvin at her mother's funeral. While there she runs into her college sweetheart. Her "the one that got away". Its after this that everything gets turned upside down.

After the funeral Ellie cleans out her mother's closet and finds her mother'
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bought for Myself
Overall Rating 4.25
Character Rating 4.25
Story Rating 4.25

NOTE: I admit I picked up this book because I met Patti Callahan Henry at a Book Signing. She was funny, genuine, and personable---all attributes that come across in her writing. It was a great venture outside my normal reading comforts!

What I Loved: This book was written for every daughter that isn't/wasn't/can't be sure they have/are/could live up the perceived expectations of their mothers. Even though this book is set
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I was very fortunate to win a copy of this book as a giveaway on

This is a wonderful book that connects a daughter and a mother through the mother's past. Part romance and part mystery, Ellie uncovers parts of her mother's life that she had locked away from the world and kept hidden until her death. Ellie longs to find out what all of this means, while trying to find out what her heart really wants. Ellie leaves Atlanta to travel to Alabama to learn more about her mother's past fr
Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: blog-review, reviews
Originally published at

This was a surprisingly fast read and really quite enjoyable.

One of things I didn't like were the main character's consistent use of "Mother" to refer to her mother instead of "Mom". It just became super annoying and really rather Mommy Dearest feeling after a couple of chapters. I know it was meant to convey the relationship between the characters, but it was just irritating.

That said, the book was overall an interesting read with a story that you gen
Sara Almeida
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sara by: Goodreads Giveaway
This was the first book I won through a Goodreads giveaway. I knew it wasn't a book I would normally select on my own, but I was looking forward to reading it nonetheless. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the book. I tried ... I really did. I do NOT like leaving disparaging comments about books. I have a huge respect for the writing process - after all, a writer puts her time and emotion into her writing. While I'm sure that this book would appeal to many people, it did not appeal to me. In ...more
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I was fortunate enough to win this book through Goodreads First Reads Giveaways (my first win!)and am so glad that I did. I was not familiar with Patti Callahan Henry before, but I will be sure to add other books of hers to my to-read list.

Coming Up for Air is a heartfelt story of love and loss, choices and consequences, forgiveness and renewal. After the death of her mother, Ellie Calvin finds her mother's journal and comes to realize that there was a side to her mother that she never knew. Th
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: chick-lit
Eh, yet another book about a married woman in her 40s who starts questioning her marriage, her happiness, the meaning of her life. WARNING-my review may contain spoiling information!

Quite formulaic in that she manages to fall instantly for her former boyfriend whom she hasn't seen in 20 years. She doesn't seem to feel the least bit guilty that she is married because, apparently, her husband is emotionally abusive. Unfortunately, the author hardly gives the reader any reason to believe this about
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I love this author's writing style but did not care for the main character.

Poor Ellie made a seemingly bad decision when she was 20. (By the way, who the heck doesn't make a bad decision when they're 20?) Poor Ellie married extremely well and had a beautiful daughter and found a fulfilling career as an artist. But she shouldn't have accepted the rich guy with the great lifestyle because he just doesn't "get" her.

So even though her mother is dead, and her mother has a real story, we have to hea
Book of Secrets
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I dearly loved this book. It pulled at my heartstrings, made me teary-eyed, and left me hopeful. What more could I ask for?

Coming Up For Air is such an appropriate title for this book. It relates to an amazing phenomena that happens at the Summer House, and also to Ellie herself, stagnant in a suffocating marriage and desperate for air. It is the mystery she finds in her late mother's journal that is her catalyst. In uncovering her mother's secret life, those missing years in the early 1960s, an
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Do any of us really know our parents and the life they led before we came along? "Coming Up for Air" is a story about Ellie Calvin and her search to find out about the life that her mother led in 1960-1961 and her part in the "movement". She found out about her mother's secret past only after her mother died. Her mother left a journal that was hidden and locked away. When Ellie found it and read it she went on a quest to find out about her mother's life and "HIM", the person her mother was so in ...more
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Secrets...and Mothers and Daughters. How well do any of us know our mothers? You know, the woman BEFORE she was a mother. When she was just a young girl with hopes and dreams of the future. The young woman in the blush of first love. I was 26 years old when I found out that my mother had been married before she married my father (gasp!!). I had grown up hearing the story of how my 4 year old mother saw my 17 year old father at a barn dance and predicted she would marry him (how cute)! I regret n ...more
Jamie Raintree
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Patti Callahan Henry has such a beautiful way with words and she used them to paint another sweet and capturing novel. The story is one I think any married woman can relate to at one time or another. Marriage is a long journey--some us make it through it and some of us don't. As always, my favorite part of the novel was the landscape. I want to go to a jubilee! I appreciate the history Henry brought to this story and while that isn't something that is of much interest to me, it made Ellie's jour ...more
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Like a lot of other reviewers, it was unclear to me till near the end of the story why the main character was unhappy in her marriage/life. I actually thought her husband's anger was often justified as she selfishly pursued her own desires but finally in Chapter 18, it all pulled together for me and I finally got it! I did end up appreciating the story, the lessons especially outlined in Cotton's attitude to life, and above all, the lyrical writing by the author. I would rather have given it 3.5 ...more
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wonderful story!! I am going to love reading books by Patti Callahan Henry. This grabbed ahold of me right away. Truly enjoyed this story which describes the strength of a woman noticing life is too short to live your life the way others expect you too! Fell in love with the characters. Was an easy to read book but was very hard to put down! Definitely on my favorites list!!!
Judy Collins
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
"Fantastic! One of the first of her books I have read; THUMBS UP! I look forward to her older works. A mixture of generations, hidden secrets, summer love, revisiting the past...setting in Buckhead area Atlanta and Alabama...a must read - highly recommend as hard to put down! "
Lori Mitchell Myers
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down!! I read for hours because I was always at "a good part". I hope the author keeps writing, because she definitely has a gift!
Becki Couch tompkins
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was touched and moved on several levels. Lesson, love fully and openly.
Carolyn Hommes
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Coming Up for Air is a story about discovering family secrets and searching for the truth. It is a story of a re-discovered first love, as well as a story of self-discovery. The main character, Ellie, struggles with her marriage as she wonders if she really does love her husband. When Ellie's mother passes away, she is left to discover there are many hidden secrets about who her mother was and her past. Through uncovering the past her mother held captive, Ellie is reconnected with her f
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story about love - having it, losing it, rediscovering it and the lengths we'll go to for those we love. The book opens at the funeral of Ellie's mother, Lillian, who we find out was a prominent member of Atlanta society, adored by many but with whom Ellie felt very detached. We also learn that Ellie's marriage to Rusty is a troubled one even though he refuses to acknowledge it (Rusty has him some issues) and that all of the first born women in the family are named "Lillian ...more
Autumn Peppers
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rarely do I write reviews, but I was so very moved by this book. I have read many books by this author, and enjoyed them all; however, this is the best one yet. This beautifully written story is about writing your own story and making the choice of how to live with your own brokenness. Realizing there was more to her mother than she realized, Ellie sets out to figure out what changed her mother from a fun-loving risk taker to a woman of cold perfection. In this quest, Ellie learns a lot not only ...more
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Patti Callahan Henry is the New York Times Bestelling novelist of eleven novels. Her latest is THE BOOKSHOP AT WATER'S END with Penguin Random House/Berkley

“When you know you love someone, when you know it's finally the right time, you don't just wait around for the right words, you just say the sentences even if they're all mixed up and imperfect.” 22 likes
“I believe it's a miracle in life when you find people who care about and desire the same things you do, and creativity does that -- brings those people together in one place.” 8 likes
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