As Close to Us as Breathing (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

“The summer of 1948 my brother Davy was killed in an accident with a man who would have given his life rather than have it happen.”

Beautifully written historical novel. From the very first sentence, this multigenerational Jewish family story narrated by Molly, the daughter of one of the three Syrkin sisters, Ada, Vivie and Bec, had me spellbound. It’s about a single tragedy that changed the lives of everyone in the family, and obligation imposed by strong family traditions and expectations. Ultimately, it’s about how family ties can shatter and shelter us, at the same time! --Aggie

— From Staff Picks - Aggie


An Amazon Best Book of the Year A multigenerational family saga about the long-lasting reverberations of one tragic summer by "a wonderful talent who] should be read widely" (Edward P. Jones).

In 1948, a small stretch of the Woodmont, Connecticut shoreline, affectionately named "Bagel Beach," has long been a summer destination for Jewish families. Here sisters Ada, Vivie, and Bec assemble at their beloved family cottage, with children in tow and weekend-only husbands who arrive each Friday in time for the Sabbath meal.

During the weekdays, freedom reigns. Ada, the family beauty, relaxes and grows more playful, unimpeded by her rule-driven, religious husband. Vivie, once terribly wronged by her sister, is now the family diplomat and an increasingly inventive chef. Unmarried Bec finds herself forced to choose between the family-centric life she's always known and a passion-filled life with the married man with whom she's had a secret years-long affair.

But when a terrible accident occurs on the sisters' watch, a summer of hope and self-discovery transforms into a lifetime of atonement and loss for members of this close-knit clan. Seen through the eyes of Molly, who was twelve years old when she witnessed the accident, this is the story of a tragedy and its aftermath, of expanding lives painfully collapsed. Can Molly, decades after the event, draw from her aunt Bec's hard-won wisdom and free herself from the burden that destroyed so many others?

Elizabeth Poliner is a masterful storyteller, a brilliant observer of human nature, and in As Close to Us as Breathing she has created an unforgettable meditation on grief, guilt, and the boundaries of identity and love.

About the Author

Elizabeth Poliner is the author of Mutual Life & Casualty, a novel-in-stories, and the forthcoming collection of poems, What You Know in Your Hands. Her stories and poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, and many other journals. A recipient of seven individual artist grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, she has also been awarded fiction scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers' conferences. She teaches creative writing at Hollins University.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780316384131
ISBN-10: 0316384135
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux / Back Bay Books
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Pages: 368
Language: English