The Breathless by Tara Goedjen (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Goedjen, Tara The Breathless. Delacorte, 2017 [368p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-1477-2 $20.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-1476-5 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-1478-9 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 8-12

In the year since her sister Roxanne’s death, Mae Cole has quietly mourned, while her father seeks Cage, Roxanne’s boyfriend and alleged murderer, to kill him. It’s a lucky break for Cage, then, that Mae answers the door when he shows up on the steps of the Coles’ decaying family manor, looking for Roxanne. His sudden appearance and his insistence that he has no memory of Roxanne’s death or the year since gives at least some substance to Mae’s belief that her sister’s untimely demise might have been due to Roxanne’s obsession with an old family spellbook. Focus shifts between Mae and Cage, while interspersed portions told by an unseen and likely ghostly narrator chronicle the creation of the spellbook over a century before Roxanne gets her hands on it. Goedjen holds true to the gothic tradition, bringing together horror, romance, and tragedy in one creepy old house, and the Cole family manor certainly makes an appealingly macabre setting. A nasty neighbor and his relationship to Mae’s sister are unnecessarily distracting, though, and the details of the magic surrounding the spellbook are murky and unsatisfying. There’s no ambiguity in the bittersweet ending, however, and it’s one that will leave readers heartbroken and haunted as Mae and Cage find peace in two different but poignant ways.

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