Breathers by S.G. Browne

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Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne
2009
320 Pages
4.75/5

Isn’t it a great surprise when you buy a book just because of the cover and then find that the book is so much more than what you imagined it would be? I hadn’t heard anything about S.G. Browne’s Breathers before finding it in the Barnes & Noble Staff Recommendation section. But when I saw the cover and noticed that it was a zombie novel, I knew that I had to have it. What I was expecting was a silly, funny novel that would provide for some light, fluff reading that would give me a few laughs. It certainly gave me the laughs that I was looking for, but it was such a great book! So much more than what I was expecting.

The book opens with Andy, our narrator, waking up on his kitchen floor to discover that he has dismembered his parents and stuffed them into the refrigerator and freezer. He has no recollection of doing this. He spends the first half of the book describing to us how he might have gotten to this point. You see, Andy has been reanimated…he’s undead…he’s a zombie. There’s no explanation why he reanimated after dying, no one knows why zombies come back to life, but some of us do. Zombies have been around for ages, but in Browne’s world, they’re just making themselves known. And they are shunned by society. They have no rights, they’re hated by society, they’re not allowed in public places, and hate crimes are constantly committed against them.

To deal with this, the zombies have formed support groups where they can talk about how they feel as a result of this and how they became undead. Andy died after a car wreck in which his wife, Rachel remained dead while he reanimated. He didn’t think he’d ever get over this until he met a fellow undead at a support group named Rita who took her own life by slitting her wrists and her throat, only to wake up again. These zombies find strength in each other, but they also find strength in a new substance that a new member brings to the group…and I’ll leave it at that.

This book was just wonderful! It shatters all the typical notions of what zombies are, while at the same time having respect for the genre. It creates a very human zombie if you will. What I loved most about this book, is that it’s quite deep once you take a look at it. It has a lot to say about discrimination, stereotyping, racism, ethnocentrism, etc. These zombies are hated by the people that they are forced to live with for something that they have no control over. They didn’t choose to reanimate just as people don’t choose the color of their skin, their nationality or their sexuality. There are hate crimes constantly committed against zombies, disgusting things done to them. And when they try to fight for themselves, they are punished for it. It was the first time that I can ever say that I was actually moved and touched by a zombie story.

I loved these characters so much! They were actually endearing. I wanted to be in their support groups holding their hands…I wanted to spend a night in the graveyard with them. I wanted to be locked in Andy’s wine cellar with him and just shoot the shit over a bottle of merlot. Browne did a fantastic job of defying a genre that’s sort of been stereotyped as only being good for cheap laughs or grotesque scenes. Sure, there are some laughs here, plenty of them actually, but they’re quite smart. And there are certainly some grotesque scenes, but even those are presented as gore for gore’s sake. However, if you’re squeamish or easily disturbed, you may want to stay away from this one!

I’ll leave you with a passage that I particularly liked:

For the undead, who are bizarre and unimaginable to begin with, the one and only wish most of us desire is to get our lives bac, which is impossible. Unreasonable. Inconceivable. Yet it’s still there, floating around in our heads like a balloon that’s just out of reach – a single, four-letter word that taunts us and haunts us and reminds us of just how much we’ve lost.

Hope.

It’s human nature to want to beliee that good things will happen, that no matter how many roadblocks or setbacks or disappointments we have to endure, eventually everything will work out. But since technically zombies are no longer human, where does that leave us? What is our nature? What are we supposed to hope for? To what goals should we aspire?

Personal development?
Spiritual growth?
Slower decomposition?

We don’t have any civil rights, nor any constitutional rights for that matter, o why should we expect good things to happen? How can we find the impetus to set any goals when the ultimate goal, the one thing we all want, is unreachable?

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15 Responses

  1. Well, this one looks like a fun, if slightly odd, read ๐Ÿ™‚ off to look at bookmooch…

  2. I love it when “playful” themes are used to talk about serious topics. I was at the bookstore the other day and really wanted to find this (you mentioned it a while back) but had forgotten the name.

    I’m curious though, why 4.75 and not 5? ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. That’s one of the weirdest plot descriptions I’ve ever heard.

  4. Sounds like quite a bizarre read, but you’ve definitely got me interested. I have to say that it definitely is kind of great when you end up loving a book that you initially bought for the cover. Guess there’s a little something to be said for judging a book by its cover after all, isn’t there? ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Want. This. Now.
    Damn, I hate this book buying ban. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  6. So excited that my library has this! I’ll try to get to it soon. It sounds great ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Bart, It’s an extremely fun read!! Not as odd as you would think…I really enjoyed it!!

    Lena, I took off .25 stars purely for my own selfish reasons :p Only because I would’ve taken the plot in a different direction in a few places. But overall the book was just amazing. Loved everything about it really. Hope you remember the name of it now!

    Amanda, It is quite the bizarre plot description :p He has another book coming out soon called Fated that sounds really good too…I think I may have found a new author to add to the favorites list!

    Megan, I definitely think that for the most part the cover ends up reflecting what’s inside of a book..I’ve rarely been disappointed by judging a book by it’s cover. This is certainly no exception! Hope you decide to give it a try ๐Ÿ™‚

    Debi, I want you to have this now too ๐Ÿ™‚ I may have accidentally bought a book yesterday ๐Ÿ˜ฎ What if you do the same :p There’s this blog I follow called Goodbye, Foom…it’s a guy that writes this adorable and hilarious comic strip and he just published his own book and I completely forgot that I was on a book buying ban and bought it…honest to god, lol. You can have a momentary lapse of reasoning too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Becky, Yay!!! I’m thrilled that your library has this!! I just know that you’re going to love this one! Promise you!

  8. I really want to read this! Maybe the library will buy it from me…

  9. er, for me, rather!

  10. I wish that I liked zombie but the undead have aways freaked me out. I can understand why people might want to keep away when you’ve dismembered your parent and stuffed them in the freezer without remembering you did. Stay back!

  11. Oh! I have this one on my TBR pile and I had completely forgotten about it! It sounds excellent – and it seems to be a lot more than what I was expecting from it. Like you, I thought it would be a fun and silly book; now I can’t wait to read it and see what’s more in there! Great review!

  12. Ok, I still need to read a zombie book (Amanda told me The Forest of Hands and Teeth was dystopian, so I avoided it until it was due and I couldn’t renew it), and this sounds like fun!

  13. After I read your review yesterday, I put a hold on this at the library. I can’t wait to read it!!

  14. Oooh, that book looks a lot of fun!!

  15. I need to give Breathers another chance, I actually set it aside about 40 pages in. I think it was a case of a review having altered my expectations, I was thinking it was a light, goofy parody – so the serious undertones threw me off. (The review BTW was from a popular magazine, yet another case of a paid/pro reviewer giving a totally wrong interpretation IMHO.)

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