The Air We Breathe (Paperback)
Spring/Summer '09 Reading Group List
“It is 1916 in a tuberculosis sanatorium on an alpine lake in the Adirondacks, a world away from WWI. Into this quiet world walks a wealthy patient who introduces weekly discussions that take over the lives of the inhabitants. Barrett uses the disease of tuberculosis brilliantly. The sudden appearance of the bacillus in lungs, the coughing fits, and the blood all evoke war itself, while fear of the disease creates an atmosphere of burgeoning suspicion and the lawless vigilantism that always seems to accompany war. A magnificent novel.”
— Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
In the fall of 1916, America prepares for war--but in the community of Tamarack Lake, the focus is on the sick. Wealthy tubercular patients live in private cure cottages; charity patients, mainly immigrants, fill the large public sanatorium. Prisoners of routine, they take solace in gossip, rumor, and--sometimes--secret attachments. But when the well-meaning efforts of one enterprising patient lead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice and vigilante sentiment. Reading group guide included.