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The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
The Air We Breathe is set in an upstate New York sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the early years of World War I. The patients are mostly indigent immigrants who are ordered to do nothing but rest. One of the recent arrivals is Leo Marburg, a young chemist from Russia. Miles Fairchild is a wealthy man with tuberculosis who is recuperating at a private house outside the sanatorium, but he comes there to hold weekly discussion groups. He's hired a young woman named Naomi to be his driver in hopes of winning her affection, but she's attracted to Leo instead. Leo, however, longs for Naomi's best friend, Eudora. When the U.S. enters the war, foreigners become feared and isolated. When a fire breaks out at the sanatorium, Miles uses it to his advantage to blame Leo, his rival for Naomi's affection. Andrea Barrett's novel has received mostly positive reviews with Newsday saying, "Barrett's artistry consists of a near-perfect equipoise between smooth storytelling and the suggestion of larger truths. You read her pages with ease, pulled in by the engaging frailties of her characters and the poignancy of their circumstances. Yet what emerges from the story is an evocative panorama of America, for better or worse, on the cusp of enormous change."