THE VIRTUES OF OXYGEN: A Novel ~Susan Schoenberger
“We’ll never really know why one person suffers tragedy after tragedy and the next person skates through life with all their relatives and friends dying in the right order with a minimum amount of grief. So we struggle. We wonder and we curse and we kill each other in religious wars, and we really don’t get any closer to the answers, but we try. That’s all we can do.” (56% of the book on Kindle)
I liked reading THE VIRTUES OF OXYGEN very much, it had a refreshing quality as the reader pondered what it might be like to live life in an iron lung because of polio for 58 years of one’s life. It was just this idea, which presented itself in an article about a woman in North Carolina to Susan Schoenberger. The author became very interesting in Ms. Mason’s life and her story and placed what she learned into this new novel.
There are actually 2 main characters in this story; Vivian and Holly share the focus although they are both sharing the same E. M. Forrester’s theme where by one must let go of the life they thought they were going to have to live the life that they have in reality. I found myself feeling very sad while reading this book and yet I could not put it down to find out the ending and the outcome for each woman.
The story is in upstate New York in one of those vanishing little towns which are happening all over the country. Vivian has lived here all her life and at 6 contracted polio, and her sister caught it a day later and died. Her whole life the iron lung kept her breathing and alive. It took her awhile to find a level of acceptance of her life. She did get a college degree in business and learned how to invest and make money to help her weary parents get along and pay the bills. She set up a routine of caregivers for herself and the whole town rallied about this intelligent, smart woman for her care and her needs. She is a valued member of her community. Holly is one of her caregivers and the action-figure of the story.
Holly’s husband has died very young and she is left with raising 2 young boys alone. She is the editor of the weekly newspaper which is struggling to survive. Holly grew up quite well off because of her father’s efforts and is now struggling to pay bills and keep up her mortgage payments while supporting two active teens. Her brother has recently lost his business to bankruptcy and her sister just has a small studio apartment in NYC where she is a dancer. The boys need funds for band uniforms and trips and Holly has maxed out her credit cards holding on, when yet another death strikes the family a new blow. The high point of her week is her caregiver time with Vivian.
The writing is very good and I could fully feel the despair of the story. I liked the format of the story, with Vivian telling her background in unpublished podcasts surrounding Holly’s day to day problems and endeavors. I too am once again letting go of my expectations that made the book touch a personal spot; I believe most of us have been there and done that at some point in our living. THE VIRTUES OF OXYGEN is a very good read.
TLC Online Book Tours sent me a kindle copy of this book to review and I enjoyed the read very much THE VIRTUES OF OXYGEN is worth adding to you list.
“Susan Schoenberger is a writer and editor who lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, with her husband and three children. Her short stories and essays have appeared in INKWELL, VILLAGE RAMBLER, and Bartlebysnopes.com, among other publications. A long time journalist her first novel, A WATERSHED YEAR won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition.