A Mouthful of Air
Amy Koppelman
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Buy *A Mouthful of Air* online

A Mouthful of Air
Amy Koppelman
224 pages
December 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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This is a harrowing view inside the mind of a woman suffering from post-partum depression. Julie Davis, a young wife and new mother, is on the mend and home from the hospital after slashing her wrists, convinced of her unworthiness as the mother of a beautiful baby boy. To all appearances, Julie has the kind of life other women aspire to: a successful husband, a baby son and a luxurious New York apartment. But appearances are often misleading, as Julie's friends and family have painfully discovered.

Julie has made progress, slowly rebuilding her life bit by bit, but pauses frequently, drawing a deep breath as a reminder that it is necessary to breathe. Medication and weekly therapy sessions have helped. But this young woman's internal damage runs deep, fostered by a bitter mother obsessed with her own physical perfection whose philandering husband has divorced her after 27 years. Julie's womanizing father remains in constant pursuit of ever-younger companions, primed by years of inappropriate affection toward his young daughter. Julie's ambivalence about her father, combined with guilt and shame, is a constant threat to her peace of mind.

Given Julie's pre-pregnancy inclination toward depression, the recent birth has triggered all her demons, feeding her self-hate and lack of self-esteem. Julie wishes to be like other mothers, wrapped up in daily lives, busy with their children's trivia. When she finds herself pregnant soon after her son's first birthday, Julie's pediatrician and psychiatrist have opposing views about the use of medication. To preserve the safety of the fetus, Julie decides to discontinue the stabilizing prescription until after the birth.

In her advancing pregnancy, Julie recognizes the escalation of emotions that signals trouble as she becomes increasingly irritable and short-tempered. She uses all of her willpower to reign in this behavior, to maintain the fašade of normalcy until the baby comes. What no one understands except Julie, who lives with the nightmare of random self-accusation that batters her every waking moment, the demons reach deep into her psyche. The poisonous seeds of self-destruction ripen within Julie's subconscious.

In this riveting and disturbing novel, Koppleman speaks for women without voices, whose internal battles pass unremarked by society at large. When these women fail, shocking us with the horror of infanticide, we ask how could this happen? Why didn't anyone see this coming? These women vainly endeavor to fulfill society's dictates for "good" mothers; they hide in the shadows, afraid of articulating such unnatural thoughts. Perhaps predisposed by childhood trauma, any woman can be claimed by post-partum depression. Young mothers like Julie must be pulled from the darkness of their despair, diagnosed and treated, given the chance to contribute to society, to family and to live with joy in the world.

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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