Holding My Breath
By Sidura Ludwig
(Crown, Hardcover, 9780307396228, 272pp.)
Publication Date: August 5, 2008
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In her beautifully wrought debut, Holding My Breath, author Sidura Ludwig crafts a bold yet tender coming-of-age tale of family, dreams, and the will to follow one’s heart.
The only child of a Canadian pharmacist and his wife, Beth Levy grows up with the understanding that expectations can develop early in people’s lives, “even before they are born.” With that, the little girl senses a responsibility to become the narrator of her family’s history, piecing together snippets of conversation, half-told stories, and intimations that waft throughout her Manitoba homestead—her aunt Carrie’s resolve to never marry, her grandmother’s static grief over her deceased husband, the wanderlust of her young and vivacious aunt Sarah, and the death of her uncle Phil during World War II.
But what she believes and what is true are as disparate as the three strong Jewish women that occupy Beth’s house, life, and heart. Her mother, Goldie, the oldest sister, harbors a desire for social status that only results in a tacit disappointment, that nothing, not even her daughter, can assuage. Carrie, the middle one, possesses a gentle nature that masks a tragic countenance. The youngest, Sarah, still a teenager, stands poised to take on the world.
While Beth seeks out the nurturing comfort of Carrie, who keeps Uncle Phil’s memory alive and bestows upon Beth his love of the stars and planets, it is the rebellious spirit of Sarah that most entices the girl. As Beth matures into a young woman, the combination of her aunts’ influences pits the old world of her mother’s strictures against a new one of exploration and escape. This internal conflict will force Beth to make a difficult choice.
With a voice as distinct as it is compelling, Holding My Breath celebrates the bonds of family and its reassuring traditions as it affirms the uniqueness of the individual on uncharted paths.
SIDURA LUDWIG was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and has lived in Toronto, Ottawa, and Birmingham, England. Her short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies in Canada and the United Kingdom, and she is the recipient of the Canadian Author and Bookman Prize for Most Promising Writer. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two children.
“Sidura Ludwig's first novel, Holding My Breath, is a lovely coming-of-age story told in a voice that is tender, sad, and funny. In understated prose, Ludwig convincingly portrays a time and a place. Narrator Beth Levy is growing up in Winnipeg in the 1950s and '60s, the youngest member of a Jewish family that holds its secrets close….The deceptive simplicity of Ludwig's style illuminates her novel's emotional depth.”
—The Boston Globe
“Holding My Breath peels back the lid on the Jewish Canadian experience in the 1950's and 60's, exposing the often unfulfilled lives of several generations of women in this charming, dysfunctional Winnipeg family. Each has her own dream: to be accepted by the Hadassah ladies, to sing on the stage, or simply to have a place of her own. Even the smallest dream can make a woman delusional, especially in this small community at such a confining moment in history, but Beth, our delightful narrator, stakes her own claim early on and the reader is instantly smitten. Holding My Breath is a sweet, sad and compulsively readable tale that manages, along with its lovely, unbreakable characters, to soar.”
—Jennifer Gilmore, author of Golden Country, a New York Times Notable Book and Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist