The Air We Breathe: A Novel (Paperback)

The Air We Breathe: A Novel By Andrea Barrett Cover Image
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"Turbulent and dramatic, full of longing and death and lust, the yearning to cover one’s own life and way in the world." —David Mehegan, Boston Globe

An elegant and astute tale of desire and betrayal, science and medicine, from the "genius enchantress" (Karen Russell) author of Ship Fever, winner of the National Book Award.

In the fall of 1916, America prepares for war—but in the town 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. From within their isolated community, they grapple with some of the most thrilling scientific discoveries of their time—X-ray technology, chemical and biological weapons, changing theories of atomic structure—and their limitations. Prisoners of routine, they take solace in gossip, rumor, and, sometimes, secret attachments. When the well-meaning efforts of one enterprising patient lead instead to a tragic accident and a terrible betrayal, the war comes home, bringing with it a surge of anti-immigrant prejudice. With The Air We Breathe, Andrea Barrett has crafted a "majestic, breathtaking, [and] thrilling" (San Diego Union-Tribune) novel that brilliantly illuminates the inescapable heartbreak of war.

About the Author

Andrea Barrett is the author of Natural History, the National Book Award–winning Ship Fever, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Servants of the Map, among other works of fiction. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Award, she lives in the Adirondacks.

Praise For…

Barrett’s powers of historical evocation, especially her knowledge of the scientific preoccupations of the time, are impressive.
— The New Yorker

Barrett eloquently blends scientific elements…with her diverse characters’ hopes and heartbreaks to bring the book to crackling life.
— Allyssa Lee - People

[The Air We Breathe] thoughtfully examines xenophobia during wartime, the manner in which political events impinge on personal lives and related attendant issues.…The book’s most winning aspect, however, is the manner in which Barrett keeps the narrator’s identity a mystery.

— Tim Follos - Washington Post

[Barrett’s] gift for story, for mining America’s past, and her ability to construct a specific moment in the quest for knowledge are remarkable.
— Karen Heller - Philadelphia Inquirer

Barrett enriches her story with science…In fact, her style, always stylish and exact, is at its most compelling when she’s describing her characters’ engagement in their scientific studies.
— Atlantic

A careful researcher and an even more deliberate writer.…This expertly paced and thoughtfully written book is ample testament to her gifts.
— Corrie Pikul - Elle

This novel is like an elegant ghost story, narrated by a chorus of not-quite-innocent spectral bystanders.
— Washington Post Book World

An evocative panorama of America…on the cusp of enormous change.
— Newsday

Richly detailed…A marvel of intelligent design, and a truly original cautionary tale, from one of the most interesting and unconventional of all contemporary American writers.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A deft and quietly wrenching tale of human misunderstanding.
— Library Journal

Vivid and engrossing.
— Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324065999
ISBN-10: 1324065990
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 5th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English