Review: The Virtues of Oxygen

the-virtues-of-oxygen“From the award-winning author of A Watershed Year comes a heartrending story of unlikely bonds made under dire straits. Holly is a young widow with two kids living in a ramshackle house in the same small town where she grew up wealthy. Now barely able to make ends meet editing the town’s struggling newspaper, she manages to stay afloat with help from her family. Then her mother suffers a stroke, and Holly’s world begins to completely fall apart.

Vivian has lived an extraordinary life, despite the fact that she has been confined to an iron lung since contracting polio as a child. Her condition means she requires constant monitoring, and the close-knit community joins together to give her care and help keep her alive. As their town buckles under the weight of the Great Recession, Holly and Vivian, two very different women both touched by pain, forge an unlikely alliance that may just offer each an unexpected salvation.” – Publisher Summary

The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger is a fast and easy read that I personally devoured in less than a day. Now, that doesn’t mean the book is “easy” emotionally – for this is a moving and heartwarming novel about the power of women, friendship, and love.  Holly and  Vivian are two leading ladies you will not soon forget.

Bright and snappy Vivian, sixty-three years old, contracted polio at the age of six and has lived inside an iron lung ever since. The entire town of Bertram Corners has rallied around her and volunteers take round-the-clock shifts to make sure that she and her equipment are cared for at all times. A good part of the novel is Vivian going back to the day she contracted polio and telling her story through the years via unaired podcasts saved to her computer.

Holly, editor of the local paper, not only volunteers with Vivian but is also close friends with her. Already struggling financially after the death of her husband, when her mother has a stroke and must be institutionalized, Holly’s financial situation hits crisis mode as she searches for help in a world already hit hard by the recession.

Holly’s financial struggles were difficult for me to read about. Most everyone worries about money, of course, and I am no exception; reading Holly’s excerpts of the book really made things hit home for me and were difficult to get through. I love that Vivian lives her life so fully despite the fact that she is encased in an iron lung – she is a business and computer whiz, has her own blog and podcasts, and has friends all over the world. It is interesting to look at the two women and see that Vivian, trapped in her home, has in some ways lived her life much more fully than Holly, who is physically free to do as she pleases.

The Virtues of Oxygen is a novel full of friendship, family, love, and community. This was such an engaging and enjoyable read; I would definitely recommend it to a friend – which means, y’all, that I highly recommend it to you.

Susan Schoenberger is also the author of A Watershed Year.

The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger: on sale July 22, 2014.                  Buy it, read it, love it.

4 stars

Source: Lake Union Publishing {via NetGalley}



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