Breath by Tim Winton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Breath is my first book by Tim Winton. It was a recommended read by a dear colleague who teaches Literature for grades 9 & 10. She was seeking feedback on the book's worthiness as an instructional material that would cover a variety of topics, concepts and issues discussed across subject areas in the classroom and experienced by young adult readers in real life. Definitely, Breath is not fiction for teenagers, but the coming of age story of Brucie Picklet is one journey that many young adult readers can relate to, if not, find it dangerously fascinating.
As a librarian servicing young adults, I believe that good literature serves to mirror life and to show its many changing colors thereby, allowing the reader to find himself or herself in the pages of a book. A reassuring statement that implies one is never truly alone in experiencing the joys and pains of growing up. Good books provide the reader a space to imagine about life beyond his or her horizon and to wonder about possibilities that may or may not happen in a lifetime. Tim Winton's Breath has achieved both purposes of literature and, despite my initial shock at the stark narrative of Brucie Picklet, I enjoyed reading the book.
Breath is both jarring and tender. Very much like the novel's setting. Winton writes with honesty about the Australia he knows and the landscape that is both wild and beautiful. Set in the hippie days of the late 60s and onwards, Brucie Picklet narrates the boredom he experiences growing up in Sawyer, a perfunctory small town in Western Australia. How he carved a life that is complex, dangerous and yet exciting in his teenage years is made possible with a little help from his friend, Looney. On their 15th summer, both boys discovered three things: surfing, Sando and his wife Eva. What happened next was a series of adventures that rendered Brucie scarred for life and Looney, lost and wandering until a violent death in Mexico decades after leaving Sawyer. Youth is wasted in the young, yes. And this is what wounded people say, however, in Brucie's middle age, the struggle to achieve balance continues. His effort to rectify past mistakes comes with a stoic acceptance of finding whatever is precious that is left in his life: a career that saves lives and comforts people; his daughters who visit him regularly; his love for surfing and with it, the grace that he could still dance on water after all these years.
Is this a book suitable for young adults? It is because the book tells you this: you are going to make big awful mistakes in your life but, if you cannot face it with courage and humility, you will either turn up really ****ed up or dead somewhere in a place far from home. Now, when you do accept the failures you get from your own making, pick up the pieces because you also have the power to put things to straights. Then, you come out a bit wiser and kinder, and more grateful for the simple things in life that can bring you immense happiness.
Breath is a good fiction novel meant for adults that can show young people how complex, yet beautiful life can be lived out.
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