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BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly Kittel

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat writes that there’s a group of people who carry the sky on their heads.  They are the People of Creation.  Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their maker gives them the sky to carry because they are so strong.  These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.  We understood this burden, but frankly, my chunk of sky was giving me a headache.”  Page 340

BREATHE is a story about healing, understanding, revealing, forgiveness, and all the junk swishing around in extended family dynamics and conflict.  I am told that the most healing process one can undertake is to tell your story, understand the lessons, and allow other people to see that there are transitions and possibilities.  The story needs time to mull and ferment to make sure it includes the truth the writer knows to be real and not just reaction and emotion.  Kelly Kittel took her time, and numerous workshops, and lots of counseling and it took her another seven years to actually write the book.  She did not do it alone and she thanks so many for helping her hold her piece of the sky.

The story line is thus: 2 people are starting their journey in the Peace Corp; one from the East Coast of the USA and one from the West Coast of the USA.  They fall in love, are happy together and they are celebrating their family; enjoying their 4 children.  They are living on a street in Oregon which is dominated by the husband’s family and they are not so fond of the Eastern Interloper who is a scientist.   Much of the huge extended family is gathered at the Oregon Coast when the 16 year old niece backs a Chevy Tahoe over the 15 month old child who she cannot see.  It is a harrowing accident with helicopter airlifts and drama. It creates huge family tension and brings the blame game out into the open; the author becomes an unfit mother.   Noah is gone and buried and the family grieves and works on counseling and keeping the remaining 3 children growing and loving. The in-laws keep acting up and out.  Kelly becomes pregnant and has high blood pressure problems and too soon Jonah is stillborn.  The grief is magnified and the support groups continue and the family works on their own healing.  The in-laws evict the family and they move back to the East coast nearer Kelly’s family.  Once again the author is pregnant and miscarries.  The emotional stress is elevated and they are caring for each other, and the family is enjoying being a single unit of love and support.  Another pregnancy and Kelly finds a High Risk Pregnancy Expert, who says Jonah did not need to die, her medical records indicate negligence. New medications and better timing and test results- care – and Isaiah is born and doing fine.  The family decides to prepare a lawsuit against the Physician and Midwife Clinic in Oregon – a five year endurance test.  The in-laws testify against the family and yet the jury decides for the family.   Bella was born after the lawsuit and the family is complete.  Lots of love, communications, forgiveness and breathing are between the covers of this story about conflicts.

The writing is full of details, emotions, and water. The writing is beautiful-memorable.  The author is not tepid or angry about her experience.  She is working it through and finding her own answers and recovery.  She is not vindictive.  It is also a study in how family communications get misconstrued and can develop a pecking order which stops being useful and cuts off any growth.  When one cannot communicate with others, there is no bond, responsibility is sidestepped and the only pathway open is to BREATHE and separate.

This book touched me personally, as I share life with a child who had 12 major surgeries and my own life full of healthcare that was not workable and no insurance; maybe we all have family members who want to control and make our lives a competition; it was good to see it from another angle and so graciously stated.

tlc logoTLC Online Book Tours   and She Writes Press shared a finished signed copy of this book for me to review.  I know you know someone who would benefit from reading – BREATHE

Kelly Kittel’s Blog
Kelly Kittel’s on Facebook

So Far Away
Little Island
The Fault In Our Stars
Wild- Plate  (We need more comments on this one for the Giveaway!)

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8 Responses to “BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly Kittel”

  1. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    “The story needs time to mull and ferment to make sure it includes the truth the writer knows to be real and not just reaction and emotion.”

    Patricia — I especially appreciated that the author took her time and did not write this book from a place of vindication. Rather, for recovery. I have added it to my must-read list.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted..Hitch Your WagonMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    I hope this story becomes a bestseller – many people need to read this story – I was very moved and the writing is beautiful.

    Yes, add it to your list – maybe purchase a copy and then share with an infant grief group in your area –

    to lose 9 baby boys within 9 months is a big story all alone, detailing family dynamics and grief process makes it an important read.
    Patricia recently posted..BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly KittelMy Profile

  2. Sara Says:


    Something about your review made me want to check out this book. I read a few pages of the Prologue and was hooked. This is beautiful writing, even though I know the story will be a difficult one to read.

    I loved the honesty of this author in the Prologue. How this wasn’t the story she necessarily wanted to tell about her life, but it was the story she was given to tell. It’s not my usual kind of book, but with your review and the sample I read, I find myself really wanting to read his book.
    Sara recently posted..SPC: A Borrowed PictureMy Profile

    Patricia Reply:

    You will have not regrets reading this one, yes there is sadness and also wholeness. I am so glad the author wrote the story.

    As one who experienced some of the same family dynamics in my family, it was also reassuring to know others have similar family dynamics to deal with and one can survive and move forward.

    Do read this book!
    Patricia recently posted..BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly KittelMy Profile

  3. janice Says:

    Hi Patricia,
    I have a massive backlog of books at the moment, but still enjoy hearing about authors and books I might not normally come across. It sounds like this one really spoke to you.

    I liked the quote, and the theme is something I know I’d be able to engage with, but sadly, I can never buy harrowing, heart wrenching books, no matter how uplifting the outcome. I empathise too much, get traumatised and never make it through them, thus getting no closure, catharsis or uplifting endings. Have missed out on a lot of excellent books because of it.

    Patricia Reply:

    Thank you for coming by and commenting – it is a beautiful book with such sad moments for sure, and yet I think everyone of us knows someone with this same kind of problem – death of two infants within 9 months) or this kind of family conflict all too well. I hope that people might share this review with others who will pass it on to folks trying to heal from loss – I think this will be a standard.

    I am sharing this book review with the clergy groups in my area, midwives, and several counselors, because I know it will help others heal.

    I am still loving the lovely song you posted on your blog – what a treat Thank you
    Patricia recently posted..CHASING THE SUN: a Novel ~Natalia SylvesterMy Profile

  4. Kelly Kittel Says:

    I truly enjoyed reading all of these comments and your replies, Patricia. I, too, hope Breathe becomes a bestseller or a standard for the bereaved but am happy for it simply to help others, which was one of my goals in writing it. It’s not a simple story nor an easy one to read, perhaps, but most people report that once they start, they can’t stop and typically finish it in a day or two. Laurie, Sara, and, yes, Janice, I hope you all take the journey and will hope to hear from you if/when you do. There are 45 reviews on Amazon you can read if you’re still unsure! I’m grateful for this review and for all of your continuing efforts, Patricia, to spread the word and to Breathe!

    Patricia Reply:

    I will get so short reviews up on Goodreads, B&N, Amazon very soon – I had a little extra surgery recently and now the final surgery coming up on Friday the 11th…I just need a squeeze of time to sleep it off :)

    I did get a copy off to the Nursing Association Conference and they will be sharing your book at their bookstore in August.

    Thank you for all your comments on this post and for such an excellent resource book and sharing your story
    Patricia recently posted..THE LANDGRAMM AFFAIR: A Novel of Politics, Crime, Literature and a Taste of Romance ~Wendy MarechMy Profile