By Christa Parrish
Bethany House, 2012
The Air We Breathe is the third novel by award-winning author, Christa Parrish, and has been named a finalist for the 2013 Christianity Today Book Award. Set on an island off the coast of Maine, Parrish seamlessly weaves together the stories of two hurting women in narratives set almost seven years apart.
Molly Fisk needs the courage to face her fears.
What she finds instead is a most unexpected friendship.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Fisk does not go outside. For so long she has run away from a moment long in the past, but she's not running anymore, she's hiding. Ruled by anxiety, she can only stare out the window of the tiny tourist-town museum she and her mother call home, longing to go outside--to maybe take a walk with the cute boy who works in the pizza place across the street.
Then the chance arrival of a woman Molly knew years ago changes everything.
Back then, Claire Rodriguez was an empty shell. Only in the unique friendship she struck up with a little girl--a silent girl who'd only talk to Claire--did she see the possibility of healing. But one day the girl and her mother vanished, their house left abandoned.
What happened that drove them away? And how can Claire now offer Molly the same chance at finding life anew?
This book was a delightful discovery, and Christa Parrish is another name that I can add to my growing list of authors who write in a more literary style with rich characterization.
Molly is a complex, sympathetic character. Molly "wasn't much more than the mop she cleaned the lobby floor with, a pole of wood and dull cotton tresses. . . . She wanted someone to strip off her skin and look beneath, to the tissue and vessel and bone, and see everything that she kept hidden away - to prove she wasn't wax but flesh. She wanted normal."
Claire grieves after heartbreaking losses as the result of a traffic accident. "There was a neediness that came from being abandoned by a husband, a desire to know that it wasn't her, but him. That she wasn't defective, or unlovable. Yes, she knew Christ should be enough, but sometimes in a cold bed, He wasn't."
Christa also explores the relationship between Molly and her mother in a way that readers can relate to. For Louise and Molly, it was "Avoid, avoid, avoid. They were so skilled at it . . . Never how do we handle this?, but how can we fold ourselves up small enough so it won't be there anymore?"
An overarching spiritual theme is shown in the way God can bring certain people into our lives, at just the right time, to touch us and help us heal. The Air We Breathe reaches a satisfying conclusion, while leaving the reader with room for imagination. This is a book that I can highly recommend.
Two scenes in this story really stood out to me. The first was when Claire took Molly for a walk to the beach, after years of not venturing outside. Parrish described the walk with such detail that I felt as though I was right there, experiencing both of their emotions.
The second scene was when Beverly, a friend of Claire's, told of an experience she had while hospitalized with a stroke. One night she felt God telling her to sing to the suffering woman in the next bed: "I have no doubt I had that stroke so I could be in that bed, that day, to sing to a woman I'd never met." I'll end with the words of the beautiful hymn that she sang:
'Man of Sorrows,' what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
A winner of Associated Press awards for her journalism, Christa Parrish now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives near Saratoga Springs, New York. She is the author of Home Another Way, finalist for the 2009 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year, Watch Over Me, which won the 2010 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year, and The Air We Breathe.
For more information on Christa and her books, visit her website at christaparrish.com.
This book was provided by Bethany House through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.