Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon
Thanks to the suggestions of other, more experienced, book bloggers, I began keeping track of my reading habits throughout the year; I've discovered that I seem to gravitate toward mysteries, thrillers and even a few science fiction selections in the doldrums of winter. I noticed Try Not to Breathe a few months ago, thanks to Tamara of Traveling With T; she and I both requested a copy of this one and I'm happy to report that it was a great add to my list.
An alcoholic journalist who's lost everything, a woman who lies in a rehabilitation facility in a permanent vegetative state, and the unsolved crime that could save them both - that's my short synopsis and this novel includes several elements that I enjoy: a debut author; broken, flawed characters; healthcare/medicine; difficult family dynamics due to trauma; intricate puzzles.
Alex, the alcoholic (former) journalist and primary narrator, hooked me from the start; I am in awe of her "routine" that allows her to function as an alcoholic. By the way, part of her daily routine includes hoisting herself out of her urine-soaked bed, putting on her running clothes, and going out for a run...hungover and before having coffee. I don't run without having had coffee, under any circumstances, so this seems like an accomplishment in itself. Nevertheless, in her own way, Alex has things figured out; she's tired of being broken, and she would like to change, but, metaphorically speaking, it's often tough to get out of the ditch when you've driven yourself into it.
She is barely making ends meet, she is only able to work during the pre-lunch hours, and she stumbles across the story of a former schoolmate who, after an awful tragedy, is left alive but comatose; Alex would love to discover the answers to the puzzle of what happened to Amy Stevenson but, given her limitations, she struggles to find the resources she needs.
She'd grown up thirty minutes away from Amy. She could have been plucked from the street at any time, by anyone, in broad daylight. Amy Stevenson: the biggest news story of 1995, lying in a human archive.
As Alex relieves some of her school days in an effort to recapture events that would have taken place around the time of Amy's attack, I felt very nostalgic for the early 90s; Alex discovers that some of Amy's favorite artists are Rage Against the Machine, Hole and Faith No More. She watched television programs like My So-Called Life and Friends. What an incredible experience to encounter someone whose life was, effectively, placed on pause during that time period, never to move forward.
Time is not a good healer. Time is a blank page on which the left behind scribble their regrets and their confessions.
Without revealing any spoilers, I am very limited in what I can tell you about the story beyond this point. While it loosely falls into the mystery/suspense category, I feel as though that does not adequately describe this novel and I would hate to limit it to readers of work in that particular genre; what I enjoyed most about this one is that it kept me both interested and invested in the characters and the story long enough to keep me from getting distracted and I looked forward to picking it up whenever I had a chance. I also really enjoyed the medical perspective; there is certainly some grey area in the science of neurologically-traumatized patients and what can be expected for their future. Author Seddon admits that she used "a lot of artistic license" but, in reality, there is a significant amount of groundbreaking work that is currently being done in this area and the story is not implausible, in my view.
This debut was definitely worth my time and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy read that will keep you entertained!