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A Mouthful of Air    by Amy Koppelman Amazon.com order for
Mouthful of Air
by Amy Koppelman
Order:  USA  Can
MacAdam/Cage, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover
* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Amy Koppelman's first novel, A Mouthful of Air, is a gripping fictional account of a new mother's postpartum depression. Twenty-something Julie, married to a successful entertainment lawyer named Ethan, suffers dark days after the birth of her son Teddy. Julie attempted suicide, which was thwarted when Georgie (Teddy's nanny) found her bleeding after slicing open her wrists.

Having returned from the psychiatric hospital to their well-appointed apartment in New York, Julie is adjusting to life at home again, one slow step at a time. Teddy will be turning one soon and Julie tries to forgive herself for the suicide attempt and move forward in order to be a good wife to Ethan and a good mother to Teddy. Julie has the support of Dr. Edelman, her psychiatrist and Zoloft, which should ease her severe depression and prevent her from 'falling so far' next time. Julie also has Ethan's support and love, and Georgie's assistance with Teddy's daily care. Since Julie does not work outside the home, she is able to concentrate her efforts on healing and spending time with Teddy as she sees fit.

Clearly, Julie needs all the help and support that she can get. While she undergoes psychiatric therapy, takes her prescribed medication and leads the privileged life of an upper-class housewife and mother with 'domestic help', many issues remain. Julie's parents are divorced after many years of her father's philandering, and her mother still pines for her ex-husband. Julie's brother David is a burned out drug abuser who hides from his emotions by making music and waiting for his 'big break.' Julie's mother tries to look younger through plastic surgery and constantly seeks a suitable mate. While Julie only gained twenty-five pounds during her pregnancy, she appears to be afflicted with an eating disorder.

Just when it appears that Julie may be back on her feet - or at least giving that appearance - a twist in her life brings new challenges and changes for her, Ethan, and Teddy. The question becomes whether Julie, in her quest to lead a normal life, will be able to overcome her depression and appreciate her comfortable lifestyle, successful and doting husband, and adorable Teddy, her perfect son. While this is not a novel of suspense, it is a well written, harrowing story (told with glaring honesty) of a deeply depressed woman who musters as much courage as she can while in the grips of depression.

I recommend A Mouthful of Air to fans of literary fiction and to anyone interested in the topic of postpartum depression - they will find this an insightful read.

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