The Art of Breathing by TJ Klune ~ Buddy Review by Ulysses and Beverley

I think it would be honest to say that both Ulysses and I read everything that T.J.Klune releases. However, having read Bear, Otter and the Kid and Who We Are there was no way the third could be ignored.

ArtofBreathing[The]Title: The Art of Breathing

Author: TJ Klune

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Ulysses’ Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beverley’s Rating: Ranging from 3 – 5 of 5 stars

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

From the Publisher:

Tyson Thompson graduated high school at sixteen and left the town of Seafare, Oregon, bound for what he assumed would be bigger and better things. He soon found out the real world has teeth, and he returns to the coast with four years of failure, addiction, and a diagnosis of panic disorder trailing behind him. His brother, Bear, and his brother’s husband, Otter, believe coming home is exactly what Tyson needs to find himself again. Surrounded by family in the Green Monstrosity, Tyson attempts to put the pieces of his broken life back together.

But shortly after he arrives home, Tyson comes face to face with inevitability in the form of his childhood friend and first love, Dominic Miller, who he hasn’t seen since the day he left Seafare. As their paths cross, old wounds reopen, new secrets are revealed, and Tyson discovers there is more to his own story than he was told all those years ago.

In a sea of familiar faces, new friends, and the memories of a mother’s devastating choice, Tyson will learn that in order to have any hope for a future, he must fight the ghosts of his past.

Ulysses’ View

I’m a klunatic. I confess. Any crazy-ass stuff that T.J. Klune spews at me, I just swallow it down and beg for more. I didn’t know what the plot was going to be (and neither will you, until you read it), but I knew how it was going to read. 

This is not a totally apples-to-apples comparison, but Klune’s “Bear, Otter and the Kid” series is stylistically akin to Michael Chabon’s quirky writing style in his best-seller Telegraph Avenue. It is dizzying, hilarious, frustrating, powerful, absurd, and ultimately either drugs you into submission or pisses you off irredeemably. 

I am in the former category. I loved the first two books in this series, and indeed have loved all of T.J. Klune’s writing. His quirky, passionate style ensnares me instantly, and drags me into the rollercoaster minds of his characters; my empathy taps are turned on “full” and my heart beats in rhythm with theirs as their stories unfold. 

The crucial lesson we learn in The Art of Breathing (which could be called “Tyson Grows Up,” is that Tyson, Bear McKenna’s little brother, is more like his big brother than he expected—or would ever have wanted to be. 

I found myself wondering if one could read this book without having read the other two. I think one could, because Klune is skilled at reintroducing crucial details from the past books that give the reader a rough sketch of the entire family saga. I’m not recommending it, mind you, just noting that it’s possible. 

The third book starts when Ty (the Kid) is still, well, a kid. The main structural difference here from the other volumes is that the narrative spans just over a decade in the lives of Bear, Otter and the Kid—along with the lives of the people who are the family-of-choice that Otter and Bear have cobbled together in the first two books. The latest addition to the family is Dominic Miller, whom Ty befriends when he’s nine and Dom is fifteen. We saw something of Dominic’s story in “Who we Are,” but his endearing character becomes central in the third book.

Where the first two books were about Bear and Otter becoming a family and protecting Ty, in The Art of Breathing Ty learns that even the most loving family can’t prevent him from making his own mistakes. He has to leave for college; he has to leave the safety of Bear and Otter’s loving embrace. Ty’s journey is as fraught with angst and wry humor and outright heartbreak as were his parents’ journeys (and yes,his brother, Bear is also his parent). Ty will have to leave the Kid behind, and possibly relive some of the worst pain of his young life, in order to learn how to breathe. 

I admit that the overthinking that runs in the McKenna/Thompson family makes me want to tear my hair out with frustration. Klune telegraphs Ty’s bad choices before he makes them, so that the reader (like viewers of B horror flicks did in the 50s) can yell “don’t do that! don’t go there!—to no avail. We begin to realize that, for all of the love and nurturing Ty has gotten from his extended kinship circle, there are deep issues he has not yet dealt with; damage that must be healed, or at least sutured, before he can really become a man in full. 

I read the book obsessively in the course of a business trip; some of you might need to read it in smaller parcels, because the intensity can be overwhelming. But you cannot read T.J. Klune’s prose without fully understanding the emotional tidal wave that these lovable, loving people experience. 

It takes a rare gift to write this way. 

Oh, T.J. has promised a fourth volume. Damn straight, given the way he ended this. Holy crap!

Beverley’s View

I thought this would be an easy review, I was wrong. This is Tyson’s (aka The Kid) book, if he drove you mad in the first two novels of this series he will have you jumping out of windows in this. Tyson’s internal narration is frenetic and equal parts annoying and amazing. Everytime I thought I just can’t take anymore a little diamond of wisdom would sparkle from the self analysis and encourage me on. You are warned by TJ Klune himself when he writes,

But Bear said I shouldn’t talk to strangers because they’d be scared of me…Bear said I would end up talking them to death and that any nefarious purpose they might have would become moot.

I started to long for dialogue from the adorable Corey/Kori and Dominic, one because he was a remarkably complex and humorous character and two because he was sweet, caring and said very little. This is not a book to relax with, as I found out because I read a lot of it whilst away at UKMeet.

One area of this novel, which I found incomparable was the describing of Tyson’s panic attacks…I recognised the descriptions to the point I started to suffer from one whilst reading,

So touching, it mocks. So sweet and touching and blah, blah, blah. The reason you can’t breathe is because you’re broken, Kid. You’re broken and won’t ever be fixed.

Each reference to Tyson’s panic disorder and what he suffers is visceral, totally believable and recognisable to someone who has suffered from them.

The Klune knack for description is in fine form, here Tyson’s laugh and reactions to seeing Dominic again,

I sound like a chipmunk getting run over by a car. Inappropriate erections, french-fry stress sweat, and dying chipmunk chortling. I am not fit to exist in the world.

and at the other end of the description range a wonderful metaphoric description of loneliness,

She’s in the Chess Club (“Pretty much the only one,” she says). She’s in the Botany Club (“President and Treasurer. I could embezzle dozens of dollars and they would never know”)…There’s a signature or two in her yearbook…mostly from teachers.

My favourite BOATK book would still be Who We Are, I didn’t cry or really laugh out loud in this third outing of the McKenna/Thompsons. I do not know how to rate this book as I feel enjoyment of it is dependent on how the reader is feeling when reading it. Some books will take me out of my mood and myself, The Art of Breathing panicked me and wore me out, partially because of where I was emotionally when I read it. Obviously, the ability to affect a reader in an extreme way is a great skill and TJ’s ability to manipulate words and phrases is as clever as ever. I also enjoyed the intertextual moments with the characters from Tell Me It’s Real and the fears for our universe should Paul and Bear ever meet!

If Into This River I drown was about the relationship between Father and Son, this novel is about the relationship between Brothers,

I sought my soul, but my soul could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.

(It has been pointed out to me that this quote should have been attributed to William Blake)

What a beautiful sentiment and another sparkling diamond in the narration. I find this book hard to rate because I felt it should have been about a third shorter. Sometimes the gems should be closer together and easier to find. TJ Klune has a very original style, which I have long loved, but here it overwhelmed me. I will read the promised fourth book as I love the characters the author has created, but I’m still holding out for the sequel to Burn.

Buy Links:

Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble (coming soon)

I would like to thank Dreamspinner for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.


Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Breathing by TJ Klune ~ Buddy Review by Ulysses and Beverley

  1. It was months after a Into This I Drown came out that I finally read it. I waited not because I didn’t think I would love it, but because I needed to be ready emotionally. I’ve been ready for this book and I’m able to enjoy each delicious page so far. TJ’s words always manage to make me laugh and cry at the same time. I’m half way through the book and loving it so far..

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