Aussie Book Review : Shallow Breath by Sara Foster

Shallow BreathShallow Breath by Sara Foster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My thanks goes to the publisher, Random House Books Australia, for providing me with a hard copy of this novel for review

Best-selling psychological suspense writer Sara Foster took months to work up the courage to watch The Cove, an infamous documentary exposing Japan’s dolphin hunting culture, and when she finally did she wept for much of the film. A long-time animal lover, Sara couldn’t turn away from what she had seen. A year later, she visited “the cove” for herself, determined to write about it.

Shallow Breath is Sara’s “love letter to the ocean”. A deeply touching novel highlighting both the atrocious acts of animal cruelty and the breath-taking efforts of conservation in Australia and worldwide.

The Blurb

“Two years ago, Desi Priest made a horrific mistake and destroyed her family.

Now, she is coming home to make amends: to her daughter, Maya, who’s nurturing her own dangerous plan; to her brother, Jackson, who blames himself; and to her close friend, Pete, who has spent years shielding her from a devastating truth.

But as Desi returns to her beloved house by the ocean, there is a stranger waiting for her. Someone who needs her help. Someone whose arrival will reveal a chain of secrets hidden for over twenty years.

And one by one the family will be forced to confront the possibility that they have somehow got things terribly, tragically wrong …

Set across five continents, Shallow Breath, is a compelling novel of dashed dreams and second chances. But most of all it is a story about love, and what it really means to be free.”


A fractured family … secrets … lost chances … but mostly, the power of fighting for what you believe in, consequences be damned!

Just as the Joeys’ life-giving threads are severed from their mothers in this haunting tale, so, too, is the thread that once bound a mother and daughter, but unlike that of the Joey, which can never be healed, will these two damaged souls manage to cross the chasm that separates them?

In this awesome tale of psychological suspense, we see Desi Priest arriving home to her beloved ocean after spending 15 months in prison for committing an impulsive act after being driven into a rage, the reasons for which had smouldered beneath her calm veneer for many years – the final igniting factor, a conversation with her brother Jackson. Unfortunately the actual memory of carrying it out is forever lost to her, but the reasons are not!

But if Desi is feeling desolate, her daughter, Maya, who has grown up in the months since she was imprisoned, is even more so. Having been taken in by her somewhat bitter and distant grandfather after her mother was incarcerated, she still harbours a lot of anger towards Desi for the repercussions of her actions and doesn’t know whether she will ever be able to forgive her.

While Pete, Desi’s long-time friend and the only father-figure Maya has ever known, still holds a torch for Maya, he is apprehensive about Desi’s release, knowing that he needs to grasp this opportunity to finally purge the secrets he has been keeping from her for the last twenty years.

And then there’s the stranger, Kate, who arrives in town, with her own secrets and dangerous agenda.

With Desi trying to repair her relationship with Maya whilst still emotionally battered by painful memories and unanswered questions of her own, Pete seeking the right time to purge his long-kept secrets, Kate finally revealing the real reason for her visit, Jackson trying to come to terms with his past guilt and present feelings and Maya becoming entangled in dangerous activities, they are all brought together by a common passion, which is bound to have far-reaching consequences, ultimately bringing them all together or, once again, tearing them apart.

My Thoughts

It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act! His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Whilst this novel is largely about conservation and based on fact, the meaning of it all runs deeper as the story is told over a twenty year span from the perspectives of eight fictional characters. Alternating between past and present, Sara Foster has created this love letter to the ocean with her emotions and passions shining through the characters she has created and being put on display for all to see.

I must admit that I found the animal abuse in this novel to be quite confronting, and during one particular scene, I found myself considering putting the book aside. However, I trundled on and thankfully so, because this is a story which needs to be told in order to get people talking, thereby making us more aware that animal conservation is absolutely imperative for the survival of our world – one part of the food chain disappearing can cause unprecedented damage to those parts left behind!

Although the novel explores many avenues of conservation and animal abuse, from the plight of the Orang-utans in Sumatra to the cruelty to animals such as the poaching of the African Elephant in Zambia, as well as the Kangaroos who reside on our own doorstep, Dolphins have always held a special place in my heart and one of the scenes in this novel which touched me the most was where Marie experiences Dolphin contact for the first time.

Whilst I have always been drawn to the dolphin attractions at theme parks (both here and in South Africa) and my love for these graceful creatures stems from having lived all my life within 10 minutes drive of the beaches in my suburb on the East coast of South Africa, with the Indian Ocean being home to the Bottlenose Dolphin, I had honestly never given a second-thought to how these mammals could have been captured in order to provide a few hours’ entertainment to scores of human beings. Sara Foster, through writing this novel, has provided me with some insight into the cruelty behind the capturing of these very intelligent, gentle and sensitive creatures and prompted me to do my own research into the cruel practice that is Taiji.

Thankfully, the theme parks which I have had the pleasure of visiting, both here in Australia and in South Africa, adhere to strict Codes of Ethics and in no way support the Taiji fisherman nor any other program where gross abuse of animals for human gain is promoted. I was pleased to learn that uShaka Marine World (in South Africa) belongs to the Pan-African Association of Zoological Gardens, Aquaria and Botanic Gardens (PAAZAB) with Perth Zoo being a PAAZAB Member Sponsor to Munda Wanga Environmental Park, Zambia. PAAZAB is the only African regional zoo association recognised by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Inspired by her own amazing encounters during her many travels around the world, as well as a 2009 documentary film entitled The Cove which analyses and questions the dolphin hunting culture in Japan, Sara has created a fabulous novel of suspense with substantial research and, in blending fact with fiction, has indeed created a complex plot and characters with extremely strong voices capable of leading us to ask the question - how far would we go in order to stand up and fight for what we believe in?

Compelling, emotional and graphic, each character has their own story to share, seamlessly combining to create an authentic plot that will make you question the true meaning of freedom and hopefully inspire you to stand up and allow your voice to be heard.

A Little Extra Info

In doing my own research on the Taiji Dolphins after reading this novel, I came across an Infographic which can be imbedded on your website. And, whilst you may think this is a very minor thing which could possibly never muster the impact and change we wish to see, in the spirit of Mother Teresa, bear in mind that “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”

Should you be interested, please don’t hesitate to visit, copy the code and do your bit, however small, towards conservation – I have!

For further information on The Cove’s Ric O’Barry and his fight to save the Taiji Dolphins, please visit


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