Shelf Control #283: As Close To Us As Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: As Close To Us As Breathing
Author: Elizabeth Poliner
Published: 2016
Length: 369 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A multigenerational family saga about the long-lasting reverberations of one tragic summer by “a wonderful talent [who] should be read widely” (Edward P. Jones).

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 twelve 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.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle edition in 2016, several months after the book was first released.

Why I want to read it:

I probably grabbed this book to take advantage of a Kindle price drop, but I know it had already made its way onto my TBR list by then.

Basically, seeing both “Jewish” and “Connecticut” in the synopsis is probably reason enough for me to want to read this book — but there’s more! I love good historical fiction, and I also love family dramas with secrets coming to the surface and complicated relationships between sisters.

I’m intrigued by the description, and now that the book has come back to my attention, I really want to know what the accident was that they all witnessed, and what happened to change all their lives.

On a more superficial level, I also find myself drawn to this book simply because one of the women on the cover (the one in the pink scarf) reminds me so much of a 1950s-era photo of my own mother!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Have fun!

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5 thoughts on “Shelf Control #283: As Close To Us As Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner

  1. Pingback: Shelf Control #148: An Episode of Sparrows by Rumer Godden – Literary Potpourri

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