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Breathing Lessons

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  24,010 ratings  ·  1,509 reviews
Maggie and Ira Moran have been married for twenty-eight years–and it shows: in their quarrels, in their routines, in their ability to tolerate with affection each other’s eccentricities. Maggie, a kooky, lovable meddler and an irrepressible optimist, wants nothing more than to fix her son’s broken marriage. Ira is infuriatingly practical, a man “who should have married Ann ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 2006 Mass Market edition (USA), 350 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published August 12th 1988)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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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
May 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2020
A day in the ordinary lives of a middle-aged couple who have a complex, stubborn story together. Ira and Maggie are not easy to sympathize with, at least for this reader. I found Maggie irritating and her chatter quite distatessful, and Ira a cryptic man whom I never really managed to descipher.
Their children, now grown up, are quite a disappointment, particularly the elder boy, Jesse, who has divorced his young wife without fighting to be in the life of his daughter.
The real storyline takes pla
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2018
Dnf @ 24%

I cannot get into this book. I don't understand how this won a Pulitzer...
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Smells could bring a person back clearer than pictures, even; didn’t she know that?” (4.5 stars)

Anne Tyler has a way of writing and collecting the simple elements of life that thrills me. While reading this book I was reminded of emotions and feelings from moments in my life that I had forgotten I felt.
“Breathing Lessons” takes place over a single day and is broken into three parts, each part told from the first person perspective of one half of married couple, Maggie and Ira Moran.
Tyler captur
Paul Bryant
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Only two stars for this tedious slice of life which by the way if this really is how life is lived you can shove it where the sun don’t shine. I think most of us would pay handsomely not to have to live these lives. And one of my stars is just for the scene where the middle aged couple are doing the now-compulsory-in-all-movies singalong-in-the- car and the song they sing is “On the Road Again” by Canned Heat – that surprised me, one of my favourites. Old pop music features quite strongly throug ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
This is the second novel by Anne Tyler that I read and I'm happy to say I enjoyed it much more than The Vinegar Girl.

Some quick thoughts:
- the main characters, Ira and Maggie Moran, were very relatable and recognisable. Maggie is a busybody, helpful, chatty, well-meaning, a bit scattered at times. She's constantly fretting over her kids and the grandchild she doesn't get to see anymore. She wants to help and fix people's relationships. Ira is the "level-headed" one, a bit taciturn, serious, almo
I bought this book in college, right after it won the Pulitzer in 1989. I started it and thought. . . yeah, like I really want to read about an old married couple, fighting in their car. I not only did NOT continue to read it, I sold it at a used book store.

But, there it was again last month, mine for a quarter at an estate sale. I reminded myself that it HAD won a Pulitzer, and I was determined to read it this time.

I still struggled with the first 25 pages. And, even though I realized the "old
Michael Finocchiaro
Breathing Lessons is a dramatic comedy about the uber-busybody Maggie, her longsuffering, solitaire-obsessed husband Ira and Maggie's crusade to get her daughter-in-law to make up with her deadbeat son. The book is all written in the third person, but with Maggie's perspective for Parts I and III and Ira's perspective for Part II. The action of the novel takes place over a single day in which Ira and Maggie are driving from their home in Baltimore to a funeral in Pennsylvania and waylaid by vari ...more
Jeanette (Again)
Oct 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
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
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
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
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Lynne King
This book was the majority choice of the book club that I belong to or else I would never have read it.

It is I must confess a very amusing book about the day in the life of a couple, Maggie and Ira Moran, married for around thirty years, who are going to the funeral of Max, the husband of Serena, a good friend of Maggie. There is unfortunately a rather disastrous, somewhat erotic, event during the reception and Maggie is not too sure if their friendship will survive this.

Odd characters punctuat
Sep 13, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
An enjoyable enough story but honestly not my favorite of Anne Tyler's. Sometimes it's funny to me how the most popular or award-winning books from an author or the ones that end of resonating with me the least. Though to be fair most of this story is about a 28-year long marriage and a meddlesome older woman, and I just didn't really click with her as a character or care for her all that much. Generally, though, I do love Tyler's characters and despite her stories often being plotless, she is a ...more
Lucy Williams
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This has gone straight to the top 10 of my favourite books list, perfect through its subtlety and delicate handling of small towns, mid life and everyday disappointments, all done with such humour and restraint. This isn’t a grand, sweeping epic but it is an epic depiction of normality and all the complexity that comes with that.

Maggie was such an incredible character created with such equal doses of hilarity, tragedy and empathy, you adore her despite or maybe because of her moments of pure ri
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
I was inspired to read this, the third Anne Tyler book I’ve read (the first two were read in my teens), as a way to feel connected to my late mother. Tyler was one of her favorite authors, and there’s something about the plainspoken, mild, well-meaning, but often befuddled characters that are exactly the kinds of characters my mom loved spending time with in her books. They are indeed wonderfully drawn: human and flawed and mysterious to themselves and others. And Tyler’s ear for dialogue is spo ...more
(3.5) Tyler won the Pulitzer Prize for this one. I’d rate it third out of the seven of her novels I’ve read so far, after Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and The Accidental Tourist. (In general I seem to like her 1980s work the best.) The main action takes place all on one day, as Maggie Moran and her husband Ira travel from Baltimore up to Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of her childhood friend’s husband and pay a visit to their son’s ex-wife and their granddaughter.

Of course, circadian na
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
aPriL does feral sometimes
Gentle reader, ‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Taylor is pitch perfect for a humorous domestic fiction. Maggie Moran is a perfect example of a bourgeois small-town American housewife. Absolutely pitch perfect. I have an ear for good writing, I believe. Idk.

But Maggie Moran is EXACTLY the type of character, as well as her family, who bores me to tears. I have never ever cared about the things she cares about. For one thing, I never had kids. For another, I grew up in a city. I was an underclass kid,
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
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
Vivien Fung
Apr 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
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
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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. She has published 20 novels, her debut novel being If Morning Ever Comes in (1964). Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a mem ...more

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One of the many things we love about authors is that they tend to have some of the best reading recommendations. So, as we head into our...
163 likes · 101 comments
“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.” 24 likes
“Smells could bring a person back clearer than pictures even could.” 12 likes
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