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BREATH TO BREATH by Craig Lew reviewed by Heather Leah Huddleston • Cleaver Magazine
BREATH TO BREATH by Craig Lew Little Pickle Press, 432 pages reviewed by Heather Leah Huddleston Seventeen-year-old William has been dealt a bad hand in life. Raised for as long as he can remember by his grandparents, Gramps dies and G’ma can’t take care of him, so William is shipped from Kansas to California to live with his estranged father. He has no real memories of his mother, except the fictionalized ones he makes up for his friends. And there’s this: he has a history of violence; he nearly killed someone in Kansas. The novel unfolds like both a mystery and a coming-of-age story as he tries to come to an understanding of who he really is. Though violence seems to follow him, we learn that the violence has a reason; he saves a girl from being raped; he saves a boy from being beaten by bullies; he saves himself after being finger raped by the captain of the football team. Within the gray area surrounding all the violence lies the question: is there ever a time when violence is okay? Or at least understandable? William’s sleep is haunted by nightmares of whales being hacked to death by faceless people and his waking moments are haunted by the vision of a four-year-old boy, Patches, who both reveals himself to William and hides from him just as quickly. On their initial meeting, the boy tells William that he is being sexually abused and, each time William catches a glimpse of the boy’s red shirt or hears his familiar giggle, he chases him in order to help him. The more William asks questions about him around the neighborhood, however, the less the boy seems to exist. And then there’s the mysterious blue-eyed dog that guides him, not only to Patches, but, to other people who need his help.