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In 1948, a small stretch of the Woodmont, Connecticut, shoreline, affectionately named Bagel Beach, has long been a summer destination for Jewish families. Here sisters Ada, Vivie, and Bec assemble at their beloved family cottage, with children in tow and weekend-only husbands who arrive each Friday in time for the Sabbath meal.
During the weekdays, freedom reigns. Ada, the family beauty, relaxes and grows more playful, unimpeded by her rule-driven, religious husband. Vivie, once terribly wronged by her sister, is now the family diplomat and an increasingly inventive chef. Unmarried Bec finds herself forced to choose between the family-centric life she's always known and a passion-filled life with the married man with whom she's had a secret years-long affair.
But when a terrible accident occurs on the sisters' watch, a summer of hope and self-discovery transforms into a lifetime of atonement and loss for members of this close-knit clan. Seen through the eyes of Molly, who was 12 years old when she witnessed the accident, this is the story of a tragedy and its aftermath, of expanding lives painfully collapsed. Can Molly, decades after the event, draw from her aunt Bec's hard-won wisdom and free herself from the burden that destroyed so many others?
Elizabeth Poliner is a masterful storyteller, a brilliant observer of human nature, and in As Close to Us as Breathing she has created an unforgettable meditation on grief, guilt, and the boundaries of identity and love.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sara on 03-18-17
Multigenerational Family Saga
I just finished listening to Linda Lavin reading a Selected Shorts short story and she was excellent. When I started this book I was let down by the huge difference in Metzger's reading when I compared it to the other narration done by Lavin. Through the first half of the listen I couldn't stop wishing that they had chosen a different narrator. In the end I thought that Metzger did an acceptable job--not great--just ok. I think the book would have been so much brighter and dynamic with a more animated reader.
I enjoyed this story of a large multigenerational family who worked together at the family department store and summered together at their cottage on Bagel Beach. The writing showed slices of life through different character perspectives using the voice of one daughter--Molly. Poliner really captured each character and their inner experience subtly. I just loved the detail of life in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
To me this was a poignant and artfully written look at life from a different time now long gone. Definitely sad in parts but the complexity and fleeting nature of life were beautifully captured.
19 of 23 people found this review helpful
By Susan Kay on 05-28-16
Stick with it
I almost quit reading the book with all of the detail about the Jewish ritual details, especially with Mort, but I'm so glad I didn't. A wonderful story about family, commitment, choices and love....
5 of 7 people found this review helpful