Rating:

sweet breath of memory book coverReviewed by Bethany Kelly

Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen is a book that I had to read in small increments. It is a good book, but it is very emotionally charged.

After losing her husband, John, who was fighting in Iraq, Cate Saunders struggles to get by. She lives her life day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. Never knowing when the grief will consume her, she decides to move to Amberley, a small but vibrant town in Massachusetts, to start over.

Although her new job as a caregiver isn’t as fulfilling as she hoped it would be, she finds friends in the locals. Gaby, a diner-owner with a painful past, who not only has some of the best food in town, but also has a knack for knowing what people need before even they do; Beatrice, one of Cate’s patients, who played a big part in keeping Amberley prominent while the men of the town fought in WWII; Sheila, who owns the Italian grocery store in town, and who quickly befriends Cate; MaryLou, whose wit and charm goes hand-in-hand with her heart of gold; and Miriam, a Holocaust survivor who passed away before Cate got to town, but who Cate gets to know through her journal entries.

When Cate finds out some disturbing news about John’s death, her newfound friends help her through the storm raging within herself.

As I said above, this book is good, but it takes a very emotionally strong person to read large increments at a time. The theme of women on the home front during war is prevalent in Sweet Breath of Memory, and the way that the people of Amberley were affected by war – although in different time periods – is what made it both an amazing read and one that you had to take your time through.

Cohen has a very distinct writing style. Not only is she quite descriptive, but she also has a very lyrical tone to her writing…one that is quite beautiful at times. There were some places that I wish the description would’ve been toned down a bit so that I could concentrate on the story line, but it was nothing major.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book, the way that Cohen weaved each woman’s story together with the other, is what kept me reading until the end. The book switches points of view between several characters, and that gives it more depth.

My biggest complaint about this book is in regards to the last 50(ish) pages. These felt extremely rushed. Almost like the author was running out of time, so she tried to pile in as much as possible into a few pages. Although Cohen did do a good job tying up all of the story lines, I don’t like rushed endings.

Overall, it was a good read, but probably not one that stood out for me.


Bethany Kelly is currently getting her MFA at Goddard College and has a BA in English. She is a writer, editor, and stay-at-home mother and wife who spends her spare time (when she has some) reading and cooking. Check out her website at www.bckwritingcorner.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kensington. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.