Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger (Review and Giveaway!)

The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger
ISBN: 9781477822791
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Published: July 2014
Trade paperback, 242 pages

This is a beautiful story of two women, Vivian and Holly, whose lives intersect at a critical time in their lives.

Vivian is a 63-year old woman with polio confined to an iron lung since childhood. “Vivian’s life-sustaining machine – though it looked more like a one-man space capsule than a lung and wasn’t made of iron, as its name suggested – had cloistered her more effectively than any religious institution,” says the narrator. Vivian needs constant monitoring to help keep her alive.

Holly is a 42-year-old widow with teenage boys who, despite financial help from her wealthy mother, is leading a hardscrabble life struggling to survive in recession-era small-town America. When tragedy strikes, Holly’s world begins to fall apart.

Vivian’s story is told in a very interesting way, through unaired podcasts. Vivian describes herself as “someone alive but trapped like a fly in tree sap.” In these podcasts Vivian describes how she has made a successful life for herself, even managing to graduate from a community college with a degree in business. I liked Vivian a lot. Despite a fragile life, dependent entirely on electricity and people, Vivian has risen above it. She comes across as a real person.

The novel examines society’s love affair with money when the narrator compares it and oxygen in an intriguing way. Referring to penniless Holly, the narrator says “if money were oxygen, Holly was the one flopping around like a fish outside the iron lung. Society expected people to have money. It really didn’t know what to do with people who found themselves outside the norms of earning and spending and paying taxes.” Sound familiar?

This work was inspired by the extraordinary true-life account of a North Carolina woman, Marsha Mason, who spent her entire life in an iron lung.

The author has written an exquisitely poignant novel. It is at once gut-wrenching and humorous, expertly capturing both the human condition and the human spirit. I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is rated C = clean read.
To read more reviews, visit the TLC Book Tour page.

About the author:
Susan Schoenberger is the author of the award-winning debut novel A Watershed Year. Before turning her attention to writing fiction, she worked as a journalist and copyeditor for many years, most recently at The Hartford Courant and The Baltimore Sun. She currently serves as the director of communications at Hartford Seminary and teaches writing classes at the Mark Twain House in Hartford. She lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Susan at her website,

And now for the giveaway!

We have one copy to give away to one of our readers. Entering is easy.


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*Buttons for following found on top left-hand corner of blog. Giveaway ends August 17.
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Thanks for reading our blog!

Reviewed by Sandra 

Disclosure: Thanks to Lisa Munley for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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