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Michaela and her husband have moved to the starkly beautiful but uncanny landscape of New Mexico, to take residency at a distinguished academic institute. But then Gerard is stricken with a mysterious illness, initially misdiagnosed, and soon their life begins to resemble a nightmare. At thirty-seven, Michaela faces the terrifying prospect of widowhood – and the loss of Gerard, whose identity has greatly shaped her own.
In vividly depicted scenes of escalating suspense, Michaela cares desperately for Gerard in his final days, and then careens through the chaos of the days after he is gone. Her love for her husband, however fierce and selfless, has not been enough to save him and his death is beyond her comprehension. A love that refuses to be surrendered at death – is this the blessing of a unique married love, or a curse that must be exorcized?
Breathe is an exploration of haunting, a horror story about the raw madness of grief, and an intense, heart-wrenching love story that grapples with the philosophical questions most fundamental to our existence.
Praise for Breathe:
‘The dizzyingly prolific Oates returns with a raw, propulsive tale of love and grief. It unfolds against the stark landscape of New Mexico, where 37-year-old Michaela’s older husband, a Harvard professor, has taken up an academic residency, only to be stricken with a fatal illness. In the nightmarish moths that follow, Michaela cares for him with desperate devotion; in the aftermath, her struggle to accept his loss sends her hurtling towards a hallucinatory denouement’ Hephzibah Anderson, New York Times
‘The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the demon-gods of the Native American Pueblo people combine to nightmarish effect in Joyce’s unrelenting latest, which is set against the uncanny landscape of New Mexico … nothing in her hallucinatory horror equals the simple, devastating awfulness of the moment when Michaela discovers her dying partner, his brilliant mind now addled with opioids, trying to read his paper upside down’ Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail
‘Breathe is a fever dream of a novel, and it’s as an allegory of grief that it most sparkles. What appears to be hallucination is actually more emotionally complicated’ Joshua Henkin, New York Times
Praise for Joyce Carol Oates:
‘The most consistently inventive, brilliant, curious and creative writer going’ Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl
‘Oates is an inspired writer, and a formidable psychologist. She has a thrilling way of grasping an emotion, wasting no time and launching herself straight at the aching heart of the matter' Independent
'I stand in awe before such an unresting hunger for the literary endeavour' Rose Tremain
Joyce Carol Oates is a novelist, critic, playwright, poet and author of short stories and one of America’s most respected literary figures. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University and a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction.