>“Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing” by Lydia Peelle is a beautiful story that leaves me wanting more. But not really in a good way, I’m sorry to say. The story is told in the first person present tense, in the voice of a woman who is separated but still occasionally seeing, and sleeping with, her husband, who seems to be pretty much a scumbag. On the bus one day she literally bumps into a professor, a herpetologist, and glimpses the turtle he’s carrying in a box. She’s enchanted and in order to avoid a social gathering with co-workers she goes to visit him and begins learning about the animals, and so does the reader.
“I leave my apartment at five to help the herpetologist with his morning feedings. So this is what it feels like, I think, to be out at dawn, meeting the world head on. Salt trucks are rumbling by, preparing the icy streets for the coming day. The sky is a color I’ve never seen before. It is as if a corner of the city’s grey overcoat has blown back to reveal an orange satin lining.”
All of which is terrific. She begins to believe she loves the old professor but he knows she doesn’t. When the story begins she’s very vulnerable and at the end it isn’t clear to me that she’s moved much beyond that, and I wanted to see more movement. She needs to shed her skin, like the python in the professor’s lab, but will she?
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