Art teacher Daniel Benedetto has cystic fibrosis. At thirty-four, he's already outlived his doctor's "expiration date," but that doesn't stop him from giving all he can to his students and his work. When he takes on Caitlin, his landlady's daughter, as a private student, the budding teen painter watches in torment as other people, especially women, treat Daniel like a freak because of his condition. To Caitlin, Daniel is not a disease, not someone to pity or take care of but someone to care for, a friend, and her first real crush. Convinced one of those women is about to hurt him, Caitlin makes one very bad decision.
Staggeringly Beautiful Novel
Oh. My. Goodness. Drawing Breath (such a brilliant title) certainly drew mine--it left me breathless and quite speechless. Without any doubt at all, this is my book of the year. If I'm honest, after reading Laurie's first novel, The Joke's On Me, I don't think I expected anything other than near perfection, but this was simply outstanding.
Daniel Benedetto is a 34-year-old art teacher suffering from cystic fibrosis, and Caitlin is his landlady's daughter and his private pupil. She is 16 and hopelessly in love with him. She aches for him as only a 16-year-old can. But buried in this adolescent love is a certain maturity: she cares for him like she thinks no other woman can and loves him unconditionally; she worries about him when he is unwell, she understands his needs, she understands he doesn't need to be pitied, she understands when he needs help. She just understands. Everything she does for him is for him.
Every word of this novel is like it has been carefully and precisely selected: a myriad of emotions bursts out of it along with courage, pathos, tragedy, heartache, tenderness, and true, true love: that of a teenager, of a sister, and of a lover. You ache for Daniel every time he coughs and splutters, you ache for Caitlin who wants to envelop Daniel in her love, not out of pity, but for the genuine admiration and passion she has for his courage, his skill, and his very being. You ache for Daniel's sister who has cared and nurtured her sick brother for years. You just ache.
This novel is as heart-warming as it is heart-wrenching. It burrows into every fibre of your body and soul and stays there.
Oh hell, I just can't think of enough of the right words to describe this superb novel. Congratulations, Laurie, a superlative novel.
--Beeshon, Amazon Reviewer
Drawing Breath by Laurie Boris
Daniel is in his mid-thirties. A school teacher by profession an artist by talent and desire and a man who happens to have Cystic Fibrosis. He lives alone in an apartment where he is protective of his privacy. Less concerned about his privacy and more concerned about his health his sister visits often. Her love apparent but sometimes stifling, she tries to push and prod him to take better care of himself.
Caitlin is a teenaged girl with a budding artistic talent which Daniel helps to foster. Hiding an adolescent crush on him she tries to learn the basics of fine art while she worships the object of her first love. Imagining herself an important famous artist with Daniel by her side she lives in the world of first crush that only a very young woman can.
Well written with a keen eye to detail and finely drawn characters Mrs. Boris draws the reader into the story with finesse' and skill. She includes the back stories at just the right moment giving us only the amount of information necessary. The dialogue is realistic and moves the story forward without wasted conversation or explanation.
I enjoyed this novel and was impressed with the way the author handled the very real depiction of a person who is suffering from a life threatening disease. While she elicits our sympathy she does not become overly maudlin, nor does she manipulate the reader.
I recommend this book highly.
Karen Bryant Doering,
Parent's Little Black Book
Drawing Breath is a book for grown ups. It is compassionate, non-judgmental, deftly and succinctly written, with nothing extraneous or ostentatious. It tells a relatively simple yet psychologically astute tale of how love can sometimes prove not quite enough. Or does it? In the world of Laurie Boris's novel, unkindness and mean-spiritedness can sometimes blossom into generosity, illuminating a grey-area world with sudden stark flashes of brightness, empathy and tenderness.
Saving the pivot on which the novel turns--the morally complex act of an infatuated teenage girl unmindful of more serious consequences--for a full two-thirds of the way in is a stroke of genius. We are treated to the slow buildup of characters as if they've been painted by the main protagonists themselves, revealing new facets as the light changes and layers are added. A gentle creative art teacher with a serious illness. A teenage girl struggling with the intensity of shiny new emotions. Her tired mother. A lonely trophy wife. A woman whose every action is informed by her pain and anxiety over her brother's condition. There is no hurry to get where we're going; time feels oddly suspended, almost irrelevant between the actions and emotions of the players on this quiet stage. And yet, as becomes clear, time is everything. Time, or its march onward, will thwart and torment. Will defeat love, even. For some. For most?
Cryptic as all this sounds, my aim is not to spoil the gentle spell of this courageous novel by over describing plot details. At heart, this is a love story. There are elements of an eternal love triangle, aspects of betrayal, dalliances with something darker, but the overall sense left with this reader was of something incredibly emotional and generous in spirit. I recommend this book very highly to anyone who appreciates a well-wrought plot told in a literary style that nonetheless refuses to revel in its own considerable artistry.
Four and a half stars (as close to five as anything I've read in years). -David Antrobus, Amazon review