Excerpt from Breath by Tim Winton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Tim Winton

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2008, 224 pages
    May 2009, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kathy Pierson

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About this Book

Print Excerpt

I’ve called for another car, says Jodie.

Yeah, good, I mutter. June, this is Jodie. She’s my partner tonight. Go ahead and tell me why.

Because your husband’s broken his collarbone, says Jodie. He broke down the door here, right?

So what do I tell them? the mother asks, ignoring Jodie altogether.

That’s really for you to decide, I say. But there’s no shame in the truth. It’s fairer on everybody.

The woman looks at me again. I squat in front of her beside the bed. She smooths the skirt down onto her knees.

I must be transparent, she murmurs.

I try to give her a kindly smile but my face feels stiff. Behind her I can see the usual posters on the wall: surfers, rockstars, women in provocative poses. The bookshelf above the desk has its sports trophies and souvenirs from Bali and the computer goes through a screensaver cycle of the twin towers endlessly falling. She reaches for my hand and I give it to her. She feels no warmer than her dead son.

No one will understand.

No, I say. Probably not.

You’re a father.

Yes, I am.

Car doors slam in the street below.

June, would you like a moment alone with Aaron before the police come in?

I’ve had my moment, she says, letting go my hand to pat her hair abstractedly.

Jodie? Will you just pop down and let the police know where we are?

Jodie folds her arms petulantly but goes with a flick of her little blonde ponytail.

That girl doesn’t like you.

No, not much.

So what do I do?

I can’t advise you, June.

I’ve got other children to consider.


And a husband.

He will have to go to hospital, I’m afraid.

Lucky him.

I get to my feet and collect my kit. She stands and brushes her skirt down and gazes back at the boy on the bed.

Is there anyone else you’d like me to call?

Jodie and two cops appear at the door.

Call? says June. You can call my son back. As you can see, he’s not listening to his mother.

When we’re almost back to the depot for knock-off Jodie breaks the silence.

So when were you planning to let me know what all that was about?

All what?

With that poor woman. For a moment there I thought you were flirting with her.

Well, you can add that to your list of complaints.

Look, I’m sorry.

Arrogant, aloof, sexist, bad communicator, gung-ho. Obviously I missed a few things, coming in late. But for the record, Jodie, I’m not a Vietnam vet. Believe it or not, I’m not old enough.

I feel awful, alright?

So get a roster change. Be my guest. But don’t do your bitching at handover in the middle of the bloody shed with your back to the door. It’s unfriendly and it’s unprofessional.

Look, I said I was sorry.

When I look across at her I see in the lights of a passing truck that she’s almost in tears. She hangs on to the wheel as though it’s all that’s holding her together.

You okay?

She nods. I roll a window down. The city smells of wet lawns and exhaust fumes.

I didn’t think it would hit me that hard.


That was my first suicide, she murmurs.

Yeah, it’s tough. But it wasn’t suicide.

Jesus, Bruce, they had to bust in the door and cut him down. The kid hanged himself.


And how the hell do you know?

I’m a know-all. Remember?

She grimaces and I laugh.

God, you’re a strange man.

So I gather.

You’re not gonna tell me, are you? I can’t believe you won’t tell me.

Excerpted from Breath by Tim Winton. Copyright © 2008 by Tim Winton. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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