Readers Guide

After reading Breathe, I hope you are touched in a way that outward discussion flows freely, but if you are looking for a little more structure or to dive a little deeper, I hope this questions will help lead the way.

Book of Kelly

  1. Breathing is clearly an important theme in this book. What were some of the many roles it played? How is the title of the book woven throughout the story?
  2. Kittel says, “One thing I discovered in my journey is the circularity of what I’d always been taught were linear opposites—without joy, we cannot truly know sorrow; without pain, there’s no pleasure; without birth, no death.” Do you agree? If this book is about death, grief, and conflict, is it also about life, joy, and harmony?

Book of Noah

  1. One of Mimi’s sayings was, “There are all kinds of people in this world, Kelly, and you have to learn to get along with all of them.” Kittel chafed at this, saying, “Can’t you just avoid the ones you don’t like?” Do you agree with Mimi or Kelly? Can you avoid people you don’t like or is it better to try to get along with everyone? How did this impact the story? How does this impact your own life?
  2. On page 66, Kittel writes, “I tried hard to adapt, but I often gulped for air like a fish out of water and wasn’t really sure what to do with myself, raising my kids in this unfamiliar environment.” She wonders, “how long do I have to live in this place for it to feel like home?” Have you challenged yourself to experience different ways of life or have you always lived in the same place? How do you define home and can you find it anywhere?
  3. On page 126, Kittel states, “Accidents do happen. But attitudes are no accident.” Do you agree or disagree? How did attitudes cause accidents in the story?
  4. Kittel discusses her loathing for the Tahoe that ran over Noah and fantasizes about destroying it. If you were her, what would you have done to that symbolic vehicle?

Book of Jonah

  1. After Jonah dies, on page 194, Kittel writes, “My task was to deliver a shining beacon of hope named Jonah Emmanuel, proving to all these good people of faith around me that God is good!” She feels like she has failed everyone. Have you ever felt this kind of failure? Have your prayers ever been answered in tangible ways?
  2. The Kittels planted their sons’ ashes in many places; it made sense to them that from death would spring life. Do you agree? Have you done similar things to honor your dead?
  3. On page 222, Kittel reiterates a priest’s lecture in which he says, “Jesus warned us about money, not because of what it was, but because of how people would use it.” Do you think money is the root of all evil? Have we chosen to use it unwisely? What role did money play in the story?
  4. On page 232, Kittel writes, “But I was finding it hard to forgive people who didn’t seem to be sorry.” What does forgiveness mean to you? Have you ever struggled with forgiveness? Did people in this story react in ways you think are typical?

Book of Isaiah

  1. On page 239, Kelly’s counselor says, “Honey, you need to go save yourself.” Has anyone ever given you permission to do something you needed to do but were hesitant about doing? Can you think of other people in this story who gave Kittel permission or helped her to gain clarity with the dilemmas she faced?
  2. On page 246, Kittel’s brother-in-law states, “if there was ever a situation on earth that could cause a family to tear apart, this would be it.” Kittel states, “I agreed with him that the chain of events could be considered a perfect formula for disaster, but . . . we still believed that had we all sincerely worked to keep the family together . . . our family wouldn’t have become yet another candidate for the Dr. Phil show.” Who do agree with? Was the outcome inevitable? How do you think your own family would fare in a similar situation? Is this something we have the power to control?
  3. On page 267, Kittel writes, “Isaiah was to be ours through a miracle of modern medicine, and thanks to a research grant from the March of Dimes, an organization founded in the 1930s to combat polio and since expanded to promote the health of expectant mothers and babies in general.” This is one of the many scientific and medical topics in this book. Were there others you learned about?
  4. Did you learn anything about a trial from reading this book? Were you surprised by any of the proceedings? Kittel says she lost ten pounds in that week. Do you think you could endure such an event yourself or have you?
  5. After the verdict is read on page 358, Kittel says, “I felt the long fingers of God Himself reach down into my spine, releasing the heavy burden that had hunched me over and forcing me to sit up straight—like a sky-carrying winner.” Did you feel this was a clear victory?

Book of Bella

  1.  Kittel is raised to believe that family is the most important thing. How does she reconcile this belief as the story unfolds? Is blood thicker than water?
  2. Kittel quotes Viktor Frankl, “we must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation.” Do the Kittels find meaning in their pain? How?
  3. There are many symbols in this book (water, flowers, trees, fish, Tahoes, doves, The Game of Life) Which ones stood out for you? How did they enhance the story?

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