Try Not to Breathe

David Bell

Berkley Pub

June 27th, 2023

Try Not to Breathe by David Bell is about a dysfunctional family caught in the web of lies, secrets, deception, and power. 

“The idea for the story comes from thinking about families.  Some of the family dynamics are like mine even though my family is less dramatic than in the book.  I have two older siblings, so my age difference is about the same as one of the characters, Anna. I thought of the way that can affect family dynamics. The father plays the role of the parent who overshadows his children.  In many ways his children feel like they are to measure up to him, distance themselves from him, or both perhaps. This is a way we all feel like our parents. The father has a larger-than-life presence that looms over the story.”

The story centers around three sisters and their relationship to each other as well as their domineering father.  Avery is the oldest. She was a Kentucky State Police officer. But after suffering a traumatic experience in the line of duty and getting PTSD she resigned and found a job as a security guard at the college she was attending to get her graduate degree. Alisha is the middle sister who is married with two children. The youngest is Anna who is the stepsister to Avery and Alisha. Their dad, Russell Rogers, an ex-cop, cheated on Avery/Alisha’s mom, and left her for Anna’s mom, which has caused some resentment between the sisters.

“Alisha is the middle child and the peacemaker.  She is the more ‘normal child,’ more grounded. Avery is clearly suffering from trauma about what happened to her when she was a police officer. This has shaped her life, trying to measure up to her dad, and finding her place in the world. Avery is more dependent on her sister Alisha than she fully realizes or wants to admit. She understands how she has blown some of the relationships and wants to work on them. Anna is the youngest, only 21 years of age, and has the immaturity and impulsiveness of youth. She does act irresponsibly and rashly.   She is bolder and brasher than her sisters and will speak truth to her father the way the others don’t. They are all distinct characters. The relationship deepens between the three as the story goes along.”

But no one in her family is aware that Anna has decided to take a road trip to join a protest. Avery is enlisted to find Anna. This allows the author to take the three sisters on individual journeys as they try to come to terms with each other and their father. 

All the boxes are checked, especially where the police are concerned. Unfortunately, most of the police in the book are bad. Readers are first introduced to Anna Rogers who is fed up with her family including Avery and her domineering father who thinks it’s okay for cops to shoot unarmed civilians. In some ways to rebel against her father she decides to visit some friends and attend a protest against police brutality, unaware of the danger that awaits her there. 

“Not all the police are bad guys in the book, just as in real life. Clearly, for the last few years we have all been thinking a lot about policing and what is good responsible policing, what is not, and what might need to be changed. Here in Kentucky, we have had the Breonna Taylor case.  She was a woman killed by the police while they served a no-knock warrant in 2020.  This was factored into the story a little bit when the characters go to the protest about police brutality in Louisville. It is something I think about lately.”

The story has police brutality, aging parents, family drama, loss, PTSD, betrayal, and dark family secrets. 



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.