Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Try Not to Breathe.
In this striking first novel set in contemporary England, two people feel what is almost an obsession for 30-year-old Amy Stevenson who, because of a traumatic head injury, has been in hospital in a coma for 15 years.
Jacob is obsessed with her because he once loved her and believes she will soon emerge from her frozen state. As survivors do, he also feels some guilt for her status. Although he is married and expecting a child, when he discovers Amy again, he feels compelled to visit her. His wife knows nothing of this.
The woman, Alex, a journalist especially concerned with medical topics, remembers the case vividly. “Alex had been the same age as Amy, and remembered the shock of realizing she wasn’t invincible.” Alex is divorced, drinks too much. Both visit Amy frequently, talking to her and hoping for some tiny sign of consciousness.
Like Jacob, Alex believes Amy will recover. Alex thinks, “She was not really a thirty-year-old, dashed into her third decade along the rocks of heartbreak, work fatigue and parental decay.” She also wants to get to the bottom of who caused Amy this much damage, as the case has never been solved, and proposes to write a newspaper feature about Amy and her life.
The chapters alternate among three points of view. In most of Amy’s chapters, she recalls her much earlier past. By the book’s end, the visitors’ relationships to the woman in the bed have been sorted out and put in proper perspective, and the mystery about the perpetrator of the woman’s severe damage is solved. Both Alex and Jake move on in some new ways in their lives.
According to current statistics on WebMD, about 25 percent to 30 percent of individuals in these serious comas have good long-term outcomes; 17 percent retain moderate to severe disabilities, and 30 percent die.
The book ends with the hospitalized woman beginning to respond slightly (she opens her mouth; she blinks her eyes), but it is left to the readers to determine what might happen next in her and in Alex’s life.
This narrative presents a unique subject matter, reads easily, and is somewhat suspenseful. The book would most clearly appeal to women or to those interested
in highly discussed medical topics.