A multigenerational family saga about the long-lasting reverberations of one tragic summer by "a wonderful talent [who] should be read widely" (Edward P. Jones).
In 1948, a small stretch of the Woodmont, Connecticut shoreline, affectionately named "Bagel Beach," has long been a summer destination for Jewish families. Here sisters Ada, Vivie, and Bec assemble at their beloved family cottage, with children in tow and weekend-only husbands who arrive each Friday in time for the Sabbath meal.
During the weekdays, freedom reigns. Ada, the family beauty, relaxes and grows more playful, unimpeded by her rule-driven, religious husband. Vivie, once terribly wronged by her sister, is now the family diplomat and an increasingly inventive chef. Unmarried Bec finds herself forced to choose between the family-centric life she's always known and a passion-filled life with the married man with whom she's had a secret years-long affair.
But when a terrible accident occurs on the sisters' watch, a summer of hope and self-discovery transforms into a lifetime of atonement and loss for members of this close-knit clan. Seen through the eyes of Molly, who was twelve years old when she witnessed the accident, this is the story of a tragedy and its aftermath, of expanding lives painfully collapsed. Can Molly, decades after the event, draw from her aunt Bec's hard-won wisdom and free herself from the burden that destroyed so many others?
Elizabeth Poliner is a masterful storyteller, a brilliant observer of human nature, and in As Close to Us as Breathing she has created an unforgettable meditation on grief, guilt, and the boundaries of identity and love.
Poliner's (Mutual Life & Casualty) novel is an exquisitely written investigation of grief and atonement, and an elegy for a Jewish family bound together by tradition and tribe. The three Syrkin sisters, Ada, Vivie, and Bec, and their children spend their summers joined by their husbands on the weekend at the family cottage in the Jewish section of Woodmont, Conn., known as Bagel Beach. In the summer of 1948, though, "our worlds collapsed... we made sure they did," after the accidental death of Ada and Mort's youngest, Davy. The prices paid for redemption, necessary or not, are highest for Bec, the only unmarried Syrkin sister, and Ada and Mort's oldest son, Howard. Also affected is Davy's sister and the book's narrator, Molly, 12 at the time. Tradition and "doing right" run through the novel, extending back a generation and tying together Mort's bachelor brother Nelson, Bec, and Howard in a wonderfully sad synchronicity. That Molly reveals so little of herself while stories unfold all around her is a marvelous device Poliner uses to impel the reader forward.
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As close to us as breathing
As Close to us as Breathing
Wonderful book! So well written I will read it again! Sad but heartwarming. Loved the book!
As close to us as breathing
As finely written and heartfelt as any book I've read in years. It really gets to the core of love and what it is to be family. Timeless and visceral stuff.