Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Breathing Lessons” as Want to Read:
Breathing Lessons
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Breathing Lessons

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  19,453 Ratings  ·  1,103 Reviews
In Breathing Lessons, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1989, we meet the harum-scarum Maggie, married for 28 years to competent, infallible Ira. On a hot summer day they are driving to Deer Lick, Pennsylvania, 90 miles from their home in Baltimore, to the funeral of a friend. During the course of that journey, with its several unexpected detours, Anne Tyler show ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 14th 2003 by Penguin Canada (first published 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Breathing Lessons, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Breathing Lessons

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Glenn Sumi
I finished reading Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons a week ago, but I found myself thinking about it a lot, especially during the recent holidays.

Tyler’s specialty is family and marriage, and while sitting down to countless meals, chatting with parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, extended relatives and seeing little grievances and grudges pop up and then be gently patted back down, hearing current events be analyzed in smart or odd or even offensive ways, seeing patterns (some good, some
...more
Rebbie
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-again, 2017
Dnf @ 24%

I cannot get into this book. I don't understand how this won a Pulitzer...
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 15, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Pulitzer
Shelves: pulitzer, drama
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
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.
Fabian
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We can essentially classify Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners into three categories: the epic ("Age of Innocence," "Gone with the Wind," "Grapes of Wrath," "Confederacy of Dunces," "Lonesome Dove," "Amazing Adventures with Kavalier and Clay," "Middlesex"), the deeply personal ("Rabbit Is Rich," "Rabbit at Rest," "American Pastoral, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," "Olive Kitteridge"), and the "personal epic" ("Beloved," "The Hours," "Interpreter of Maladies," "The Road," "A Visit from th ...more
Nancy
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Book Concierge
From the book jacket: Everyone knows a couple like the Morans. Maggie, with her scatterbrained ways and her just slightly irritating – but good-hearted – attempts to make everything right for everyone.... And Ira, infinitely patient, who is addicted to solitaire and who whistles out popular tunes, the only barometer of his moods. They’ve learned all there is to know about each other ... two ordinary lives in a comfortably routine marriage. But on the road to a friend’s funeral, they make some un ...more
Helynne
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Bev
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Darlene
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read 'Breathing Lessons' by Anne Tyler, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989, I am once again reminded of her extraordinary insight into the inner workings of marriage and family. In this story, we are introduced to Ira and Maggie Moran, a couple married for 28 years who have two grown children.... Jesse, a son who appears to be drifting and stuck in unrealistic fantasies of rock stardom, with a failed marriage behind him and a young daughter with whom he has no relationship; and ...more
Shay Caroline
Jun 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stinkers
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
Kru
My first Anne Tyler and so absolutely blank about her style.

Well, I am totally loving her characterization and plot layout. You learn about the characters as the day progresses, and nothing seems to be like what you first thought it to be. There is a humor that pervades the story the same way certain thoughts or emotions tickle up tears. This is reality written the best way ever, very realistic and relatable.

It sort of came to me at a right time to evaluate self, relationships and parenting. A
...more
Nancy (NE)
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: palate-cleansers
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
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
Vivien Fung
Apr 18, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Omer
Jul 25, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Tamara
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Tatyana Naumova
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
ну не знаю, про катушку было веселее
Marie Hertle
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Irina
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
За първи път чета Ан Тайлър и честно казано много ми хареса. Действието в романа се развива в рамките на един ден, който на всичкото отгоре започва с погребение. Главните герои са семейна двойка с почти 30-годишен брак зад гърба си. В никакъв случай не е някаква семейна драма. Романът е построен много елегантно, без никакви излишни сюжетни линии. Авторката много майсторски е успяла да пресъздаде целия им живот, описвайки един единствен ден, но през погледа и на двамата. Много откровен, без да се ...more
Kirsty
Jul 13, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've decided that Tyler's books are just not for me. I like her core ideas on the whole, but have tried to read three of her novels to date (Breathing Lessons was the last chance saloon, basically), and have abandoned them all. I find her prose rather lacklustre, and found her protagonists so irritating that I was loath to continue with it.
Lindsay Hunter
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved how this book captured the perma nostalgia / existential dread of being a mother. Simply beautiful.
Lynai
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vonia
So... this is the Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece by Anne Tyler. I have to say I was greatly disappointed. In an interview, even Tyler herself said that she felt Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was more deserving. Anyhow, this was a slice of life novel that examined Margaret & Ira's cutesy little marriage. I realize Margaret was supposed to be a lovable character but could not find it to be so. She was a woman I could not find endearing in any way. Even though I knew she meant well, I w ...more
Christina Green
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tyler did a brilliant job with her characters and their frustrating inabilities to communicate with one another. The action takes place during the course of a very long day but at the end of the novel you feel like you know these people and what will happen in their lives. Her characters are artfully constructed and her dialogue is wonderful.

I had this on my bookshelf for a long time, having started it many times, but I just couldn't get into it. Give it time. You'll be glad you did.

I gave it 4
...more
Heather(Gibby)
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: src-winter-2016
This was the first Anne Tyler book I read, and I feel she really hits the mark in understanding her characters and able to reveal the superficial along with the deeper characteristics of their personalities. That does not mean I really liked all the characters in the book, but I loved Anne Tyler's way of showing rather than telling what is going on within a character.

The whole story takes place in one day, while Maggie and Ira to and from an close friend's funeral. /along the way their is quite
...more
Nevena
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
В тази книга няма фойерверки от думи, няма резки падения и възходи. Има едно тихо задълбаване в емоционалния свят на героите - тихо, но много дълбоко. Книга, която изравя драмата от уж скучното ни всекидневие. Романът влиза под кожата ти съвсем неусетно, но мен лично още ме държи във властта си. Накара ме да си задавам въпроси, които не си бях задавала, което е много за една книга. Много убедително навлизане в гледната точка на различни герои, наблюдаващи една и съща ситуация, а това е висш пило ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Breathing Lessons / Anne Tyler - 4**** 1 11 Feb 01, 2017 08:33AM  
All About Books: Week 96 - Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler 13 30 Jul 22, 2015 04:09PM  
  • The Store
  • In This Our Life
  • The Able McLaughlins
  • The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford
  • Elbow Room
  • Guard of Honor
  • Honey in the Horn
  • Scarlet Sister Mary
  • The Edge of Sadness
  • Years of Grace
  • Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady
  • Now in November
  • Journey in the Dark
  • The Town
  • Dragon's Teeth I (World's End)
  • His Family
  • The Late George Apley
  • The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters
457
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 a ...more
More about Anne Tyler...

Share This Book

“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.” 19 likes
“Smells could bring a person back clearer than pictures even could.” 8 likes
More quotes…