Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drawing Breath - Laurie Boris

Since I named three indie books to the list of my top 6 reads in 2012 for Book Junkies Journal, I guess I know what I'm reviewing for the next couple weeks.  (One of them was a later volume of Ed McNally's Norothian Cycle, which I'll get to eventually.)

For this week, it's Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris.

Disclaimer:  I write primarily fantasy, and up to now, I've been reviewing fantasy novels.  This book is not fantasy.  It's not sci-fi, either. Read it anyway.

The book is told from the point of view of two distinct characters:  Daniel, a thirty-four-year-old art teacher with cystic fibrosis, and Caitlin, a sixteen-year-old girl.  Caitlin's mother has rented their upstairs apartment to Daniel; partly in exchange, Daniel agrees to allow Caitlin into the art class he teaches at the local community center.  When that doesn't work out, he offers to give Caitlin private art lessons.

Caitlin, of course, has a gigantic crush on Daniel.  She fantasizes about a future with him, even as it's clear to everyone else that his health is failing.

I'm a sucker for voice in a novel.  Some of my favorite authors are my favorite authors because of their facility with sustaining a great voice: Patricia McKillip's fairy-tale lyricism and Kent Haruf's plain-spoken storytelling come immediately to mind.  Boris, too, does a wonderful job with the voices of her two main characters.  Caitlin's tumble of teenage emotions rings true, and so does Daniel's adult fatalism.

When things get complicated -- as they must -- Boris steers clear of the kind of morass that could have turned the plot into Jerry Springer fodder.  And the ending is just right.