The Air You Breathe Book Cover

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

"[A] glorious, glittery saga of friendship and loss... I read The Air You Breathe in two nights. (One might say I inhaled it.)." --NPR

"Echoes of Elena Ferrante resound in this sumptuous saga."--O, The Oprah Magazine

"Enveloping...Peebles understands the shifting currents of female friendship, and she writes so vividly about samba that you close the book certain its heroine's voices must exist beyond the page." -People


From the back of the book:

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

Traveling from Brazil's inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Rio de Janeiro's famous Lapa neighborhood, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship--its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses--and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.


My Review (spoilers):

This was a bit of a longer read, but it was beautifully written.  Some of the words were like poetry and music itself.  The relationship of the two main characters Graca and Dores beginning from childhood to old age was explored at length through the entire novel and some members of book club felt that it was much too long.

I really enjoyed reading this book, but I was disappointed that Dores never found peace or true contentment in her own talents.  I really identified with her feelings when she was young, knowing she was not the beautiful one, not destined to be "the star".  However, as I've gotten older, I've embraced what I believe makes me special and I feel as though Dores never does this.  She gets close with her last concert in Impanema, but this is taken away from her by Graca, who is supposed to be her closest friend.  Then even in her old age, Dores is still obsessed with Graca.

To me, Dores is supposed to be "The Air You Breathe" to Graca, however, without Graca to "breathe her in", so to speak, she feels she is nothing and that was disappointing to me as I wanted more for her.

 4/5 stars