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Cover for Sweet Breath of Memory

Sweet Breath of Memory

Ariella Cohen


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover, Large Print (9/21/2016)


"A storyteller at the top of her game." --Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author

Life is in the telling.

With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It's been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn't pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she's drawn--reluctantly at first--into a circle of friends.

There's diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers' spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit--a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John's death threaten Cate's newfound peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms' stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.

"Filled with compassion, humor and honesty, Ariella Cohen's Sweet Breath of Memory is a powerful story of forgiveness. . .Through food and friendship, a community releases its long held secrets, and Cohen provides solace for her characters and her readers." -- Karen Brown, author of The Longings of Wayward Girls

"Ariella Cohen spins a tender yarn about the enduring nature of love, the importance of friendship and the eternal longing for a place to call home. Every page brims with warmth, wisdom and compassion." -- Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of You Were Meant for Me

Kensington, 9781496703705, 336pp.

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

About the Author

Ariella Cohen is a graduate of Barnard College, the Hebrew University and the University of Michigan Law School. Her short fiction appears in A Cup of Comfort for Couples, Heartscapes, and Flashshot. Although she makes her home in New England, her dream self resides in County Mayo, Ireland. Visit the author's website at:

Conversation Starters from

Cate’s memories of John are fluid, shifting in and out of

focus and becoming abraded by time. She questions if

this means her love was somehow flawed. Why do you

think some memories remain crisp, while others blur

and seem to dim?

Cate speaks of memories as a shield against loneliness and despair.

Like armor, they’re ‘initially so shiny they dazzle and in time acquiring

the patina of use.’ Do you agree? Are there particular memories that

have been your armor in life?

How does the life path of Cate mirror that of Miriam Rosen? Can

the guilt Cate feels over John’s death be compared with a Holocaust

survivor’s guilt?

Gaby does not initially tell her closest friends that she is ill. Knowing

how her parents’ death shadows her life, do you think denying herself

the comfort of friendship is a form of self-punishment?

Working as a home care aid, Cate wears the uniform of one valued

more for what her hands can do than what her mind can imagine.

Compare her initial attitude toward caregiving with Gaby’s toward

waitressing. Both women come to view such manual labor as a form of

atonement. Is this healthy?

When Helen describes growing up with her mother, the anger and

resentment she felt toward Charlotte is obvious even though it was

tempered by great love. How can we help friends and colleagues face

the unique challenges of caregiving?

Who do you think gave Cate Miriam’s journal entries? Why were they

given to her?

At the end of the novel, Cate comes home to Amberley. Compare

that scene with her arrival by bus in chapter one. Think about how

the women of Amberley changed in the interim. Is Cate a catalyst for

change much as Miriam was decades before?