Book Review: Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen

Life is in the telling.

Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella CohenWhen Cate Saunders walks into Amberly’s Italian grocery store Vitelli’s, little does she know how her life is going to change. Weighed down by the loss of her husband John in the Iraq war, having lost the house they bought together, and all dreams of the life that they wanted to build, Cate has accepted a job as a caregiver.

Hopeless and numb, she wonders what the future will hold, and how she will manage to put a roof over her head given that she is down to her last few dollars. What she doesn’t anticipate is the bonds and friendships she will build in Amberly that will help and support her on her journey.

Miriam Rosen was a Polish Jew who lived in the rooms above Vitelli until she died a few years before Cate came to town. A prolific journaler, she kept a record of the years during the war and beyond, but no one knew where her diary was – until Cate started to find some of her journal entries.

The women of Amberly form the backbone of this novel. 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 World War II; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and Sheila, whose Italian grocery, Vitelli, is the soul of the place.

Cohen has woven together a beautiful novel, integrating a Polish Jew’s stories of the holocaust and survival with Cate’s journey to healing her heart, along with the stories of Amberley’s women, a lot of whom have, in one way or another, been touched by war.

This is luminous, heart-warming writing, with a story that will stay with you long after you reach the end. It could potentially be one of those rare books that you will want to re-read from time to time, for the deep wisdom contained within its pages. Highly recommended!

Think you might enjoy this book too? Click to buy Sweet Breath of Memory on Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from NetGalley, but the review and opinion are mine.
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