6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Virtues of Oxygen (Kindle Edition)
Susan Schoenberger based this remarkable and poignant novel on fact after reading the obituary of Martha Mason in the New York Times. She was so intrigued by this obituary that she ordered Martha Mason’s autobiography. After reading it over the next few days she became even more fascinated. She attributes this novel to Martha Mason for her ‘inspiration, courage and character’. Without Martha’s story there would be no novel.
In ‘The Virtues of Oxygen’ the young girl confined to the iron lung for a lifetime after catching polio in her childhood was Vivian. She was a wonderful character, the centre of town life, who needed an army of volunteers to keep watch on her so that she didn’t choke. The volunteers came gladly, spent a shift looking after Vivian, talking to her as she listened carefully to their tales and their worries and just gave her honest opinion as to what they should do. She was an inspiration.
Living in the same town was Holly, a widowed mother of two young boys. She struggled financially, barely making enough money from her job as a journalist at the local newspaper to keep up with the mortgage and feed her children. During the recession she finds she can’t help but fall behind with some payments. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has left her facing the repossession of their home. Holly is also a wonderful character in this novel, she does not complain or confide her worries to Vivian when she visits her. She sees beyond the monstrous machine that breathes for Vivian, seeing her as a highly intelligent, unique and wonderful human being.
Then Holly loses her job and faces the prospect of homelessness. Her family, once a family of means, is also in decline along with many others in the recession. They are unable to help Holly. But Vivian, finding out about Holly’s dilemma makes some arrangements of her own.
I really enjoyed this novel, feeling great empathy and respect for these two main characters. They were true friends, both committed to help the other. Even though they are such different characters they are what each other need and admire most. This novel moved me to tears of frustration, joy and even happiness. It will stay in my mind, its enjoyment undiminished by time.