Thursday, July 09, 2009
Strong story, appealing characters make "Breathe" a great read
As a radio interviewer, I get a lot of Christian fiction crossing my desk. Most of it I enjoy. But frankly, some books I abandon because, even though they're not terrible, they just don't "grab" me.
Breathe: A Novel of Colorado, by Lisa T. Bergren, certainly doesn't fall into the latter category. This book grabbed me from the very first page and kept me reading way past my bedtime--for me, a sure mark of a teriffic read.
I've read lots of fiction featuring people with tuberculosis--or "consumption," as it was called in the 18-hundreds--but never one in which the "consumptive" actually recovered and went on to live a healthy life. That's just one of the intriguing things about "Breathe."
Set in Colorado Springs in the late 18-hundreds, this is the first in a series about the St. Clair family--two sisters and a brother who journey by train from Philadelphia for one of the siblings to "chase the cure" and open a bookstore for their wealthy publisher father.
Apparently Colorado Springs was highly sought-after by people suffering from tuberculosis in that era because of its beneficial climate.
The beginning of the book plunges us immediately into the action: just as the St. Clair's train is about to pull into Colorado Springs, their sister Odessa is on the brink of death.
The scene establishes the three main characters: Odessa, gentle, ladylike and courageous; Moira, loving but flighty and ambitious; Nic, determined to protect his sisters, but frustrated by the role thrust upon him by his father and anxious to find his own place in life.
As we follow Odessa's recovery and budding romance at a sanatorium, Moira's involvement with the town's tyrannical sheriff, and Nic's secret life as an alcohol-swigging boxer, there's a strong subplot involving murder and mystery that would keep you turning the pages even if the interesting characters didn't.
Lisa T. Bergren is an excellent writer. A Colorado Springs resident herself, she infuses the story with the feel of authenticity and a strong sense of place.
Best of all, she's not afraid to acknowledge Christian faith throughout the story, and she portrays it in a way that is neither preachy nor cheesy.
I highly recommend "Breathe," and I can't wait for the next book in the trilogy.
By the way, I'll be interviewing Lisa T. Bergren for my radio show, and I'll be sure to blog about it.