The Air You Breathe
Book Review - The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
An author’s passion for a subject has never come across in their writing as powerfully as Frances de Pontes Peebles’ passion comes across in her latest book, The Air You Breathe. Her descriptions of music, particularly the Samba, were so beautifully articulated that I forgot I hadn’t heard one musical note played - only descriptions as written by the author. My breath was taken away a number of times while reading (listening via Audible) this book. At 16 hours and 38 minutes, it took me several weeks to finish this book - but I got used to having the characters there in the car with me as I drove around town and I miss them now that the story is over. Now the car seems a little lonelier than it had been when I was hearing Rebecca Mozo narrate this book.
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles is first and foremost about the friendship between Dores and Graça, who met when Graça’s family moved into the big house and onto the family plantation where Dores worked in the kitchen. They bonded over music - fueled by Graça’s mother who took them to a concert and supplied them with a record player. As Dores and Graça grew up, one became a singer and the other a songwriter. But as with most friendships, there were some times of jealousy, times of pain, and times of love and support. After reading this book, I will certainly never listen to music the same way.
I took these photos at the top of Mount San Jacinto State Park. I hadn’t started reading the book yet, but I’ve always liked the thin mountain air - how the high altitude affects the difficulty of breathing. As I read the book there was a poem that really stuck out to me, the poem after which the book was titled. Here are the first two stanzas:
Here I am, Love.
Always by your side.
I buy your food.
I make your bed.
I place the pillow
under your head.
But you don’t notice.
You don’t care.
You seem to think,
I’ll always be there.
What would happen if I were to leave?
No one notices the air they breathe.
You’ll have to read the book to find out how the song ends. But it is so true that we don’t notice the air we breathe, until we don’t have air to breathe. Like on the mountain when I was climbing the stairs to the top: it became more and more difficult to breathe. Only then did it occur to me that altitude is no joke and only then did I start paying attention to the air I breathe.
I absolutely loved this book. I love love love love loved it. Definitely one of my favorites of the year - right up there with Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.