book review: shallow breath by sara foster

This book was sent to me by Random House Australia. I have been asked to write a review and my review is truthful to my opinion of the book.

Shallow Breath

From the press release:

Two years ago, Desi Priest made a horrific mistake and destroyed her family.

Now, she is coming home to make amends: to her daughter, Maya, who’s nurturing her own dangerous plans; to her brother, Jackson, who blames himself; and to her close friend, Pete, who has spent years shielding her from a devastating truth.

But as Desi returns to her beloved house by the ocean, there is a stranger waiting for her. Someone who needs her help. Someone whose arrival will reveal a chain of secrets hidden for over twenty years.

And one by one the family will be forced to confront the possibility that they have somehow got things terribly, tragically wrong…

This book sounded intriguing. When there is a secret that you can only find out by reading, I’m hooked from page one. This is exactly what happened with Shallow Breath, Australian author Sara Foster’s third novel.

Desi has just been released from prison after being in there for 15 months. Her daughter, Maya, isn’t excited about her mother returning home as she is still angry with her. Maya is currently living at the caravan park run by her grandfather Charlie. They aren’t close but it provides Maya with a somewhat stable environment. She is checked up on by her uncle, Jackson and her mum’s best friend/the only father figure she has ever known, Pete. There is still tension between Maya and Desi because she no longer feels welcome at the home of Rebecca, Desi’s childhood friend.

And that’s just the beginning.

To complicate matters further, there is someone waiting for Desi upon her return. Kate, the niece of Connor, Maya’s father, wants to talk to the woman her Uncle loved and to ask for her help. Covered in secrecy, Kate keeps her intentions to herself, not even telling Jackson who she develops a relationship with. She wants to ask Desi because she knows that she won’t refuse, but she’s asking for a lot.

Secondary to the people in the story, the undercurrent of Shallow Breath are all the animals. The characters are passionate about the conservation of dolphins, kangaroos, orang-utans and elephants. Desi has spent most of her adult life swimming with dolphins and studying their communication patterns with Connor and on occasion, Pete. Pete is passionate about the conversation of the dying breed of orang-utan. Elizabeth spent years in Africa protecting elephants from poachers. Maya has recently been helping a local boy, Luke, rescue kangaroos and their joeys after his stepbrother and his friends torture them.

Kate also has a passion to help dolphins which is where Desi’s help can be required.

You know from the beginning that Desi has (obviously) done something to wind up in prison and that what she did has affected the lives of many. This secret is slowly unraveled throughout the book, enough to keep you guessing and to satisfy your curiosity. It’s a psychological thriller without being overly creepy and intense. There is always an element of mystery. For me, the book ended with many questions left unanswered. They weren’t necessary questions, just aspects I wondered about. Having said that, it didn’t feel “unfinished”, I feel it was merely a device to allow the reader to make up their own minds.

Separated into five different parts, written in third person from the perspective of eight different characters and taking place across five continents Shallow Breath was, pun intended, a breath of fresh air. It was written in such a way that I wanted to keep reading because there was always something to find out. There was a steady stream of suspense and the short chapters made it incredibly easy to read. At times I was uncomfortable with the mentions of animal cruelty, but I am the person who cries more when an animal dies in a film than when a person dies (usually). But I think Sara was incredibly smart to write about it, this is why:

What impact are you hoping the book with have on animal conservation in Australia and internationally?

My main hope is to get people talking. I would love to engage some of the people who look away from conservation issues because they are too distressing. I often hear the words,
‘I don’t want to think about that, or watch that, because it’s too depressing.’ And I think these are probably the people who would shout the loudest if they listened and witnessed some of these issues and realised that we can get behind all sorts of fantastic conservation groups and support them to make a difference. And that it’s imperative we do so quickly, because the world is changing at an unprecedented rate.

Even if it makes you uncomfortable and upsets you, read Shallow Breath, become aware of the reality of animal cruelty so that you can make a difference. The characters, the settings and the circumstances are enough to keep you interested. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I’m keen to read Sara’s other books now.

For more information on the creation of Shallow Breath, click here to go through to the book’s website. For more information on how you can assist in animal rights, click here.

You can watch the book trailer below:

Pictures provided by Random House Australia.

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