Aussie Book Review: Shallow Breath by Sara Foster

shallows Shallow Breath by Sara Foster

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Random House, December 2012

 Synopsis- How far would you go to save someone you love?

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 plan; 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 …

Set across five continents, Shallow Breath is a compelling novel of dashed dreams and second chances. But most of all it is a story about love, and what it really means to be free

Review- Shallow Breath is the third psychological suspense novel to be released by Australian author, Sara Foster. It’s a slow-building story that explores worldwide issues of animal cruelty and the conservation efforts of those who dedicate their lives to protecting animals. It looks at issues pertaining to five different species of animals including sharks, dolphins, elephants, kangaroos and orangutan and though set primarily in Western Australia it does span five continents.

Shallow Breath switches viewpoint between six connected characters through short chapters that are all associated with various animal causes. There’s Desi who worked with and researched Dolphins. She’s just been released from a 15 month gaol sentence and hopes to reconnect with her eighteen year old daughter Maya. She’s been caught up in a horrific situation where kangaroos are being murdered and beaten, leaving their joeys orphaned and sometimes injured. Along with Maya’s friend Luke, they try to save these kangaroos and attain evidence to stop these cruel acts. Connor is Maya’s deceased father whom Desi is still grieving. His ex-partner Elizabeth is an activist for elephants while his best mate Pete works with orangutans. Desi’s brother Jackson works with sharks. It was fascinating how each member of this extended family were involved in working with and protecting animals- if not a little convenient for the story to cover such a broad coverage of conservation programs.

I’ve enjoyed Foster’s last novel, Beneath the Shadows so when the opportunity to read Shallow Breath became available I was really excited. It’s got such an interesting premise and I’ve read some really raving reviews for this story, but I was a little disappointed.

I appreciate the research and the underlying messages in the story but I feel it’s execution was a little weak which came as a surprise to me after reading so many 4 or 5 star reviews for it. I’m afraid I’m that of an outlier in my review of Shallow Breath.

The pacing of the story is quite slow, which at first really worked for me as each of the characters viewpoints began to unfold. However, the suspense that I expected from this novel didn’t really make its mark until the final quarter of the story. The majority of the novel is focussed on the past, through flashbacks and memories in each of the character viewpoints over a twenty year period. The two major secrets, that of why Desi tried to run down her best friend’s dad and why Kate (Desi’s belated boyfriend’s daughter) has come to see her, when they were unveiled it was a bit of an anti-climax. I expected some kind of emotional response from various characters but the truths seemed to be accepted relatively calmly. The last part of the story is quite rushed with all the characters coming together to fight for a single cause- which I admit was very brave and courageous- and the ending left many things unresolved.

While I appreciated what this story set out to do and I was fascinated, confronted and admiring of the conservation work that takes place within Australia and abroad, I did feel the slow-pace of the story, lack of suspense and anti-climax associated with character conflict let the story down. Shallow Breath is an ambitious story exploring five different animal species and spanning five continents and certainly made me think about the extent of animal cruelty that still exists in this day and age. I encourage you to check out other reviews by readers who speak highly of Shallow Breath before deciding whether to give this one a go or not.

Sara Foster stopped by my blog yesterday to chat about her book and the inspiration behind the story.

Overall Rating

3.5/5

“It was okay”

Shallow Breath can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:

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