Eva is in the throes of early marital bliss. Her husband, Jackson, has come with her to celebrate her mother’s birthday on the coast of Dorset. Despite her resistance to Jackson leaving their bed one morning to go fishing, Jackson grabs his equipment and sets off. This is when the unthinkable happens and Jackson is swept away by the rough sea and killed. A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke is primarily about what happens to Eva in the wake of her profound loss.
Too devastated by Jackson’s death to continue with her midwifery, Eva decides to go to Jackson’s family in Tasmania. Though he was at odds with his family his death, Eva feels sure that they would want to meet her and grieve with her. Instead, she finds Jackson’s alcoholic father and his brother, Saul. It is clear in speaking with Jackson’s family that he had many secrets and an entire life that Eva knew nothing about. As she learns more about Jackson’s past, Eva has to deal with her longing for a life that is gone, and she also must figure out what to do with her developing feelings for Saul. Is she attracted to him because he looks like Jackson or reminds her of him? Or is the developing relationship the beginning of something new.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Single Breath. The descriptions of Tasmania were amazing and Clarke did a great job developing a sense of place. The land is nearly another character here, and its characterization as a wild but beautiful place is spot on. Fortunately for me, I actually live near a beach because this book really made me long to go visit the ocean.
Clarke wrote the entire book in present tense (verbs include “sets”, “leans”, “begins”, etc.), even while she takes trips to the past of the characters frequently. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it was to write the verb tenses so correctly and consistently. (This seems like a minor thing, but as an amateur writer, I know how hard it is!) Clarke does an amazing job making the story feel as though it is currently unfolding even as she unspools the past as well.
The characters are well written and they did and said things that made sense. I enjoyed reading about them and the twists and turns of the novel were ones that I did not always see coming. While not a fast moving page-turner, there was a slow and steady rhythm to the plot that made it enjoyable to come back to each time I read it.
One twist at the end strained my credulity, but otherwise, A Single Breath, was a great way to spend a few hours. Very enjoyable!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina