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

Learning to Breathe

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  2,112 Ratings  ·  169 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, 292 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Berkley
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 Learning to Breathe, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Learning to Breathe

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction, 2011
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.
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Karen White is right up there with Maeve Binchy, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, Sarah Addison Allen... the authors who consistently write books I enjoy, old faithfuls. This one, picked up at a thrift store, did not disappoint. I had to read it when the husband and kids were gone, as it brought me to tears on several occasions.

Edited to add: Reread in 2017. Didn't realize I'd previously read it until I came here to add my review. NO WONDER I predicted everything that was going to happen!!!
✰☽✰  Unsolved Mystery ✰☾✰

I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks!

This was a roller coaster of a read.
First, it was a 2 star: It took about 60 pages before the book took off like a rocket-ship.
When it did, I held on tight.

Then, it was a 5: An old stack of un-read letters is discovered. A secret love affair.
Ooooh, the intrigue. Bumps all over the place. I kept turning the pages. I wanted to turn the pages.
I was entranced.

Then....It slowly started dipping to a possible 4: I didn't like the direction
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Reads like a Hallmark Channel movie. It's up to you to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
Roberta Stewart
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jul 31, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway which did not influence my honest review.

This is another great Karen White book. While somewhat predictable, I did really enjoy the characters, the writing and the overall story that was laced with Southern charm, and had a sweet and romantic plot.

Ms. White has managed to write about many of lifes' truths in this book that really makes you think and resolve to live life to the fullest.

An overall enjoyable read that I would recommend.
Small Review
Nice enough, not awful, but if I finished it I don't see rating this much higher than a 3.5 and I have too many other books to read to spend time on a middle of the road book right now. Characters are ok but bland and shallow. Not much to the plot outside of the romance and character growth, neither of which are really grabbing me.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Another Karen White book, no better nor worse than the rest. They always hold my interest on a superficial level, but I'm not left with that reading afterglow at the end. That's why I call her books "summer reads." They satisfy one level, but leave me wanting on another.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: romance
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!
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Terry Christian
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great book by Karen White!

Ms. White has easily become one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her stories are always so complex, and, even though I think I've figured out how the story will progress, I am usually surprised, at least a little bit by the end. This is a heartbreaking story, but full of hope at the same time. I found it very easy to read and had a satisfying ending.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a fun book about family dynamics, missed opportunities, and finding one's passion all centered around an old movie theater that was past it's prime. It was the perfect book for me to read as I started this year's Sisters Trip on the train. I had plenty of time to read on my 17+ hour journey each way. This book was full of humor and heartache and difficult decisions.
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading "Learning to Breathe". It was well written. I thought it was just a romance novel, but it had more to the story too. It had a WWII connection which was interesting.
Peggymsu Valentine Colombo
It was a good story, but not my favorite by her.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read 76 pages before I gave up. I've liked other books by Karen White, but I couldn't get into this one.
Michele Kellher
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I like Karen White's books, but this one was just ok - way too predictable! Frustrating that the main character was so slow to catch on!!
Summer Pool
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very sweet book. Loved all the family and of course, who didn't love Aunt Dottie?!?!
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
Jeannine Harbison
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty good, earlier work of Karen White.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I could hardly put this one down!
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"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 Wh
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I won this book in a Goodreads First-reads contest and I was in no way influenced by that.

Brenna O'Brien had her heart shattered when she was in her late teens. She loved Pierce McGovern fiercely and thought he was her one and only. Then he went away to school and she never heard from him again. She wrote him many letters and he never responded. She never got over him.

She has lived all her life in Indianola, Louisiana and has made running the Majestic Theater her life. She is an avid classic mov
Jul 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: la-2, romance
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Oct 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • When Light Breaks
  • Skyward
  • Summer in the South
  • Drenched in Light (Tending Roses #4)
  • Mother of the Bride
  • The Accidental Bestseller
  • Bulls Island
  • Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon
  • The Bikini Car Wash
  • Bound South
After playing hooky one day in the seventh grade to read Gone With the Wind, Karen White knew she wanted to be a writer—or become Scarlett O'Hara. In spite of these aspirations, Karen pursued a degree in business and graduated cum laude with a BS in Management from Tulane University. Ten years later, after leaving the business world, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer and wrote her first ...more
More about Karen White...
“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.” 14 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.” 11 likes
More quotes…