Book Review: The Air You Breathe

Book Review: The Air You BreatheThe Air You Breathe
by Frances de Pontes Peebles
on August 21, 2018
Pages: 464
Published by Riverhead Books
Genres: Diverse Spines, LGBTQ, Literary Fiction, Multicultural

The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride--and each woman's fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes--and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

My Takeaway

“Her beauty was not a physical trait. Her beauty was an influence you fell under . . . infusing you with bravery and wit and affability that you never knew existed inside yourself until she coaxed it out.”
Frances de Pontes Peebles, The Air You Breathe

The Air You Breathe was a burst of fresh air, lots of samba, vivid scenes, and strong female characters. After the first couple of chapters, the extraordinary lives of Dores and Graça took off! Though from extremely different backgrounds (one poor, the other rich), Dores and Graça forged a remarkable friendship. As a reader, and through Dores’s perspective, I experienced the numerous ups and downs of their fierce friendship. There were truly some memorable parts and characters (loved Madame Lucifer). At one point or another, I was disappointed by Graça’s behavior and actions, but the same goes for Dores (they both tested my patience!). This was a lovely historical novel kind of based on the lives of Chavela Vargas and Carmen Miranda. Peebles’s writing and music made me feel I was in Brazil dancing samba. I would absolutely love for The Air You Breathe to be adapted into a film (enviando sinais para Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington). This book was the December selection from the wonderful and diverse book club @LitonHSt. I was fortunate to meet Peebles at our book club and yes, it was amazing. 🙂

Thank you to Edelweiss and Riverhead Books for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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