A lyrical, powerful, and richly textured novel about three lives that intertwine across oceans and time.
On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toy-maker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Ottawa Valley in Canada, where a journalist, battling a terrible disease, risks everything for one last chance to live.
Taking inspiration from a remarkable true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about the transcendent power of storytelling and the immeasurable impact of every human life. The legacy of the woman at its heart touches the lives of us all today, and this book reveals just how.
SARAH LEIPCIGER is the author of the acclaimed novel The Mountain Can Wait. She won THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt and her stories have been shortlisted for the Asham Award, the Bridport Prize, the Fish Prize, and the PRISM International Short Fiction Contest. She holds a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria and an M.A. in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths at the University in London, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, also at Goldsmiths. Born in Canada, she now lives in London, U.K., with her husband and three children, where she teaches creative writing in prisons.
PRAISE FOR SARAH LEIPCIGER AND COMING UP FOR AIR:
“Leipciger’s prose is rich and stirring.” — Quill & Quire
“Leipciger is a masterful and brilliant storyteller who writes beautiful, concise, and clear descriptions … [Coming Up for Air] is a fascinating and enthralling must-read.” — Booklist, starred review
“Sarah Leipciger captures the nature of solitude and stillness in a way that no other writer does. The Mountain Can Wait was a wonder. Coming Up for Air expands her range even further, exploring that eerie shoreline where land and ocean meet, where breathing becomes drowning, and life teeters on the very edge.” — Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“Vivid and evocative … moving and intricate … A book about tragedy, love, and ultimately hope.” — Claire Fuller, author of Bitter Orange
“Leipciger’s beautiful words are elegant, sharp, and bold, but what makes Coming Up for Air completely stunning is that it shows how people, living at different times and in faraway places, can breathe life into each other. The three lives run through the novel, flowing farther and faster until they converge in a powerful rush. The ending left me gasping.” — Claire Cameron, author of The Last Neanderthal and The Bear
“Glittering. Ambitiously imagined and richly woven. A triumph. From the first page, I was gripped not only by the scale of the narrative but the sheer fierce beauty of the writing. Here is a novel that dares to cross the boundaries of time, the elements, life and death, and does so with the twists and hooks and magic of a consummate storyteller.” — Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Music Shop
“Coming Up for Air is effervescent and audacious — a novel in which kicking for the surface, no matter how desperate the odds, is always worthwhile.” — Foreword Reviews, starred review
“A beautiful and moving novel with an intriguing multi-point-of-view structure and an interesting and diverse cast of characters — a lady’s companion in Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century, a toymaker in Norway, and a mother caring for a daughter with cystic fibrosis. Sarah Leipciger weaves back and forth seamlessly — and suspensefully — among them. The prose is lovely, particularly the descriptions of nature, and the dialogue is punchy and spare. The ending is as unexpected as it is satisfying. A fine novel.” — Roberta Rich, author of The Midwife of Venice and A Trial in Venice
“Leipciger writes with great compassion and precision, her language is an exquisite mix of muscle and grace.” — Michèle Forbes, author of Ghost Moth
“Writing to sink into. Just stunning.” — Wyl Menmuir, author of The Many
“An elegant, mesmerizing, elegiac novel that draws us in as surely as the rivers and seas that move through these pages draw the various characters to their fates.” — Cynthia Holz, author of Benevolence
“An extraordinary three-century braid of air and water: the way we float, the way we drown, the way we surface again against the odds.” — Francis Spufford, author of Unapologetic
PRAISE FOR SARAH LEIPCIGER AND THE MOUNTAIN CAN WAIT:
“A deft and beautiful novel about all that is untameable and wild, in both the landscape and in ourselves.” — Maggie O’Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am
“As haunting, wild and compelling as the landscape it describes.” — Claire Cameron, author of The Bear
“The Mountain Can Wait is a taut, psychologically gripping novel populated by original characters constantly at battle with nature, family, society, and themselves. This is a book that kept me up at night. Leipciger has Margaret Atwood’s rare flair for crafting an intelligent and suspenseful novel.” — Nickolas Butler, author of Shotgun Lovesongs
“In this assured debut novel Leipciger beautifully captures the tender and mercurial relationship between father and son, Tom and Curtis Berry. These are characters you care about, flawed and haunted by regret, existing in the harsh yet undeniably radiant world of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Leipciger writes with great compassion and precision, her language is an exquisite mix of muscle and grace. The Mountain Can Wait resonated with wonderful imagery which will stay with me for a very long time.” — Michèle Forbes, author of Ghost Moth
“Clear and beautiful, like swimming in a mountain lake.” — Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“Genuinely moving.” — Kirkus Reviews