Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

by S.G. Browne

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Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne

For zombie aficionados everywhere, a hilarious debut novel about life (and love) after death.

Meet Andy Warner, a recently deceased everyman and newly minted zombie. Resented by his parents, abandoned by his friends, and reviled by a society that no longer considers him human, Andy is having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new existence. But all that changes when he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting and finds kindred souls in Rita, an impossibly sexy recent suicide with a taste for the formaldehyde in cosmetic products, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car-crash victim with an exposed brain and a penchant for Renaissance pornography. When the group meets a rogue zombie who teaches them the joys of human flesh, things start to get messy, and Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will take him from his casket to the SPCA to a media-driven class-action lawsuit on behalf of the rights of zombies everywhere.

Darkly funny, surprisingly touching, and gory enough to satisfy even the most discerning reader, Breathers is a romantic zombie comedy (rom-zom-com, for short) that will leave you laughing, squirming, and clamoring for more.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767931663
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 324,659
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

S.G. Browne is the author of FatedLess Than Hero, Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, and more. Born in Arizona and raised in San Francisco, Browne attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. He currently lives and writes in San Francisco.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I wake up on the floor in darkness.

Faint artificial light filters in through a window, which doesn't make sense because there aren't any windows in the wine cellar. But I'm not able to deal with that question until I figure out why I'm on my back in a pool of liquid that's seeping into my clothes.

That and I can hear Sammy Davis Jr. singing "Jingle Bells."

When I sit up, something rolls off of my body and onto the floor with a hard, hollow thunk. It's a bottle. In the faint light coming in through the window, I watch the bottle roll away across the floor until it comes to rest against the wall with a clang. It's an empty bottle of wine. And the wall isn't a wall but the base of the Whirlpool oven.

I'm in the kitchen.

On the digital LED display at the top of the range, the clock changes from 12:47 to 12:48.

My head is pounding. I don't know how many bottles of wine I've consumed, but I know I started drinking before lunch. The impetus for my wine binge is as clear to me as the digital numbers of the oven clock, but I have no idea what happened to the last twelve hours.

Or how I ended up in the kitchen.

Or what I'm sitting in.

Part of me doesn't want to know. Part of me just wants to believe that it's nothing more than fermented grapes. That I somehow managed to get out of the wine cellar and into the kitchen and then passed out, dumping the contents of the bottle of wine onto the floor. Except the front of my clothes aren't wet, only the back, and since the bottle was on my chest when I woke up, I couldn't have spilled wine on the floor without soaking my shirt.

I put my hand down into the puddle, which is congealed and sticky, then bring my hand up to my nose. It smells sweet. At first I think it's yogurt or strawberry preserves, until I put my finger in my mouth.

It's Baskin-Robbins strawberries and cream ice cream. My father's favorite. He keeps at least two quarts of it in the freezer at all times. What I don't understand is what it's doing on the kitchen floor. Then I turn around and stagger to my feet and understand why.

Three quarts of Baskin-Robbins are smashed open, their contents melted and spreading out across the floor. Surrounding them are boxes of frozen vegetables, packages of frozen meats, containers of frozen juice concentrate, and half a dozen ice cube trays, their contents melted and mixed in with the ice cream, forming a pool of defrosted frozen items.

Oh shit, I think. What the hell did I do?

Not that it really matters. My parents are going to ship me off to a zoo when they get back from Palm Springs. Unless they wake up in the morning and my father is upset enough about what I've done to cancel their trip and ship me off to a research facility out of spite.

I don't know what I intended to accomplish by dumping the entire contents of the freezer onto the kitchen floor, but I figure it would probably be a good idea to try to put back what I can and clean up the rest of it before my parents wake up. But when I open the freezer, I discover there's not any room.

My parents are in the freezer. I can see hands and legs and feet and my father's face staring out at me from the second shelf. His head is in a large Ziploc freezer bag, as are the rest of my parents' body parts. Or most of them. When I open the refrigerator, my parents are in there, too.

All the wine I've drunk is suddenly trying to find its way back into the bottle and I barely make it to the sink before I throw up. Actually, it's more like reverse drinking. Just wine and a little stomach acid. But no chunks of Mom or Dad.

Our relationship wasn't always like this.

Sure, there were the standard growing pains and disagreements most parents and sons encounter.



Latent Oedipal desires.

But when your only son reanimates from the dead, it creates an entirely new dynamic that your average parents just aren't prepared to handle.

After all, it's not like there's a handbook for dealing with spontaneous resurrection. That's the technical term for zombies you hear thrown around by experts on talk shows and news programs, as if they know what it's like to be a reanimated corpse. They have no idea of the emotional fallout from a rapidly digesting pancreas. Or how hard it is to keep your tissues from liquefying.

My father was a de facto expert. And by "de facto," I mean he was the only one who considered himself an expert on anything.



Personal hygiene.

"You know, Andrew, you can get rid of those blackheads by using olive oil and vinegar."

He actually believed this. Fortunately, he let Mom do the cooking. Otherwise, I would have been the only kid in my school eating arugula salad with sliced pears, Asiago cheese, and a benzoyl peroxide dressing.

Don't get me wrong. My dad wasn't an idiot. He just always thought he was right, even when he had no idea what he was talking about. He would have made a great politician.

However, I do have to give my father props for his choice in refrigerators. My mom wanted one of those Whirlpool side-by-side models, but my father insisted on an Amana bottom freezer. Said it was more energy efficient, drawing cold air down instead of up. He also claimed it provided better use of shelf space.

While my parents' heads and most of their limbs are tucked away inside the freezer, their bodies from hip to shoulder are stuffed into the refrigerator. Had it been a side-by-side model, I never would have been able to fit their torsos on the shelves. Thanks Dad.

On the CD player in the living room, Dean Martin is singing "Auld Lang Syne."

Staring at my parents stuffed into the Amana bottom freezer, their torsos crammed between the mayonnaise and the leftover Thanksgiving turkey, their heads sealed in Ziploc bags, I'm overcome with a surreal sense of disbelief. From the expression on my father's face, it appears he's just as surprised as me.

Maybe none of this would have come to pass had my father taken the time to understand what I was going through instead of treating me like a pariah.

Or maybe I'm just kidding myself.

Maybe everything that happened between the accident and now was inevitable.

Chapter 2

Two months before I find my parents in the Amana bottom freezer, I'm at the Soquel Community Center, sitting in a semicircle of chairs that's open toward a petite, fifty-two-year-old woman who looks like my third-grade teacher. Except my third-grade teacher never ended up on the wrong end of a twelve-gauge, pump-action Mossberg.

On the freestanding chalkboard behind her, written in block letters, is the proclamation:


Upper- and lowercase letters probably would have softened the message, but the petite woman, the group moderator, a gunshot victim named Helen, is just trying to make us feel better.

"Rita, would you like to start tonight?" asks Helen.

Rita's face is a pale moon hovering in the black hood of her sweatshirt. She has on a black turtleneck and black pants. The only color she's wearing is on her lips, which are Eternal Red.

Rita slit her wrists and then her throat on her twenty-third birthday. That was less than a month ago. Most of the time she wears gloves and turtlenecks to hide the stitches. Sometimes she wears hooded sweatshirts. Other times she wears scarves. On bad days, she wears all three. Tonight she left the scarf at home, so at least she's not feeling morose.

Rita licks her lips--sucks on them, actually, removing most of her lipstick. From her pocket she produces a black cylinder and applies another coat, smacking her lips together. It's either an oral fetish or she needs a fix.

"I still feel alone most of the time," says Rita. "Once in a while, I can almost imagine none of this ever happened. Then I look in the mirror and the hopelessness comes flooding back."

Five other heads nod in understanding. Carl is the lone dissenter.

"You don't agree, Carl?" asks Helen.

Carl was stabbed seven times, twice in the face, by two teenagers who stole his wallet and used his credit cards to buy seven hundred dollars' worth of online pornography.

"No," says Carl. "I agree with her completely. She is hopeless."

"That's nice," says Naomi, lighting up a cigarette. Half African American, half Japanese, Naomi could still pass for a model if it weren't for her empty eye socket and the way the right side of her face sags. "Why don't you just rip open her stitches while you're at it?"

"I'll leave that to your husband," says Carl.

Naomi's husband came home after a bad day of golf and took out his frustrations on her with a Titleist four-iron.

"He's no longer my husband," says Naomi.

"Technically, no," says Carl. "But then technically, none of us should be here."

"And yet we are here," says Helen. "So why don't we focus on that."

In addition to Helen, Rita, Naomi, and Carl, the other members of the group include Tom, a thirty-eight-year-old dog trainer who nearly lost his right arm along with the left half of his face to a pair of Presa Canarios, and Jerry, a twenty-one-year-old car crash victim. Like me.

Because of our similar experiences, Jerry feels a connection with me, so he sits next to me at every meeting. I don't feel anything but lost, and Jerry, who listens to rap music and still wears his pants halfway down his ass, annoys me, so tonight I made sure to sit at the end of the semicircle next to Naomi.

"We're all survivors," says Helen, who then stands up and walks over to the chalkboard. "I want you all to remember that. I know it's hard dealing with the threats and the name-calling and the expired food products thrown at you, but you survived for a reason."

At times Helen reminds me of Mary Poppins--always cheerful and full of advice that works for characters who live in movies, fairy tales, or the Playboy Mansion. But I have to admit, without the support group I'd probably never leave my parents' wine cellar. Still, I think we need to come up with a name other than Undead Anonymous. After all, when you're undead, you're about as anonymous as a transvestite with a five o'clock shadow.

At least we don't get any support group imposters crashing our meetings, trying to pick up vulnerable women. That would be sick. Interesting, but sick.

Helen finishes writing another of her messages on the chalkboard and turns to face us. Beneath YOU ARE NOT ALONE, she's written the words:


"Whenever you're feeling lost or hopeless, I want you all to say this out loud. 'I am a survivor.' Say it with me now."

By the time the meeting breaks up, it's dark outside. The end of October is more than two weeks away, but less than a month into autumn and it's already pitch black before Jeopardy.

I never liked autumn. Even before the accident I hated the weather growing cold and the changing of the leaves. Now it's a visual reminder of how my own life has grown cold. Lately I'm beginning to think there's just an endless autumn threatening an eternal winter.

I'm getting melancholy again.

Helen advocates the buddy system when we leave our meetings, though Carl says he doesn't need anyone to hold his hand and heads for home on his own. Jerry, Helen, Rita, and I all live in the same direction, so we head off one way while Naomi and Tom head the other. Most nights, Jerry buddies up with me and talks incessantly about his accident and how he needs to get laid and how he wonders what it would be like to be dead. I wonder about that, too. More so when I have to pair up with Jerry.

"Dude, that car was awesome," says Jerry. "Cherry red with a beast for an engine and a killer sound system. You should have seen it."

I know the story by heart. A fifth of Jack Daniel's, half a dozen bong hits, no seat belt, a utility pole, and bad judgment on a right-hand turn sent Jerry through the windshield of his cherry red 1974 Charger and skidding along River Street head first, scraping away a chunk of his scalp. I've heard the story so many times that I can almost believe it happened to me. Except my accident was worse. Jerry was alone in his car.

My wife was asleep in the passenger seat and, unlike me, she never woke up.

For the first two months after the accident, all I could think about was Rachel--the smell of her hair, the taste of her lips, the warmth of her body next to me at night. I wallowed in my suffering, consumed with anguish and self-pity. That and I had to deal with the smell of my decomposing scalp, the taste of formaldehyde in the back of my throat, and my own cold, decaying body. It was enough to make me want to take a gasoline shower and set myself on fire.

If you've never woken up from a car accident to discover that your wife is dead and you're an animated, rotting corpse, then you probably wouldn't understand.

Helen says that even though we've all lost more than our share, we need to keep our faith in the path that lies ahead of us. She says we need to let go of the past before we can embrace our future. I'm still working on that. Right now, the past is all I have and the future looks about as promising as the new fall lineup on CBS.

I used to wish Rachel would have reanimated with me so I wouldn't have to go through this alone, but eventually I realized she was better off dead. I'd thank God for small favors, but I doubted his existence before this happened and I haven't exactly changed my mind. Losing your wife in a car accident is enough to challenge the faith of even the most devout believer. But when you're a skeptic to begin with, being able to smell your own rotting flesh tends to put the kibosh on your belief in a divine power.

That's one of the biggest problems about coming back from the dead. The smell never quite goes away.

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Breathers: A Zombie's Lament 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 75 reviews.
MicheleLeesBookLove More than 1 year ago
Andy is at rock bottom. He lives in his parents' wine cellar, has no social life other than weekly support group meeting and appointments with a therapist who can't be bothered to care. Worse, because he's dead he has no rights to reclaim any semblance of a life. While it has threads of zombie apocalypse, Breathers is remarkably different because of its lead. First, Andy spends most of the book mute. Second, being an intelligent and overall nice guy it makes his journey to reclaim his life and deal with the seriously impairing injuries left behind by his death (including the mental ones and a few nasty revelations about his relationship with his parents, even before his death) means this zombie is an easy to relate to Everyman on a journey. Breathers is a deeper read than your average zombie tale, but doesn't forget its genre roots. Fun at times, terrifying at others and absolutely compelling. Highly recommended for public collections and an essential addition to modern zombie collections. Contains: Sex, gore, language
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I completely enjoyed every chapter of this book! S.G. Browne is genious for creating zombies that are are different from your usually flesh eaters. I love the fact that he makes zombies the protagonists of the story, including characters that are well thought put together. I was sad when the book had to come to an end, this is the 1st book I read from S.G. Browne and I'm already hooked on to his work. Can't wait to read Fated! I would recommend this to anyone who digs zombies, comedy, romance, and shall I say some gore? I've loved watching zombie movies and playing Left for Dead, but this book shows zombies in a whole new perspective.
Book_Zombie More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the best zombie books I have ever read. I love that the writer steps outside the box to create a zombie story that is full of humor, romance, and the fight for zombie rights. Browne doesn't go the same route as other zombie books, and lucky for us readers. The story was very touching and challenges your zombie preconceptions. Don't worry, die hard zombie fans, there is still pleny of people eating for you, too.
MQ2 More than 1 year ago
I while back I was at Barnes and Noble and the worker assisting me recommended I try out this newly released book. I ws a little skeptical going in since I am a bit of a zombie purist when it comes to what they can and can't do. Much to my pleasure, I loved this book. I liked the tone, I liked the story, and I really liked how there was a wide arrange of emotion in the book. There were parts that were genuinly funny, and others that were much more depressing and sad than I expected I would see. I would really like to see either a sequel that carries forth from the events in this book, or perhaps a prequel delving into the original outbreak of the zombies. It is a pretty easy read, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a break from the usual.
karahdawn More than 1 year ago
This was a quick read which is good for a busy mom. Eventhough it was fast it was still engaging and full of storyline. The ending was a surprise. The ending made me a bit frustrated but I still loved it!
TheBatman More than 1 year ago
I had once stated that I would like to read a zombie love story, and I found one with Breathers. I didn't find the romance to be particularly the main hook for me throughout reading the story, but the author's depiction of zombies and their rights within society, and the character's daily problems with being a reanimated corpse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Breathers" is not your average zombie novel. There is graphic violence. It contrasts with a zombie love story, the fight for survival, and the pursuit of personal & group freedom. The violence is perpetrated by the zombies, and against them. This is not a book for children. However, it is a good book for zombie fans that want something different to read. The length and pacing were good. It was well written and easy enough to follow. I read this book in two days. It was that good. The characters and their respective situations evoke deep sympathy from the reader. The story is written like a short epic saga. All of the events occur during one year. But, the drastic changes that all of the major players experience is incredible. Unlike many zombie books, not a lot of time is devoted to the cause of the plague. Also, it is not explained why some people become zombies, while others manage to die properly. A good book that I highly recommend. I plan to read some other titles written by this author. -AvidReader
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a lifetime fan of zombies i wasnt to sure about this book. I mean who wants zombies that fall in love and are humorous. I almost passed on this out of disgust but decided to give it a chance. And im glad i did.
Jordon Roberts More than 1 year ago
I loved the humor that only true zombie fans could love. Great read.
ramen More than 1 year ago
I absolutey could not put this one down. Highly recommended to fans of humor, romance, social satire or just those with a fondness of zombies. I can't wait to read it again.
Jswami More than 1 year ago
As an S.G. Browne fan I knew this book would not disappoint. The cast of characters were so refreshing as was the storyline. You will enjoy this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was well-written and had an interesting premise. I was enthralled with the beginning and sympathized with the main character. However, about halfway through the book the character suddenly changed personalities. It was very odd and I found myself getting a little disgusted because I didn't find the character's actions believable anymore. The last half of the book read like it came from a completely different novel. Both the beginning and the ending were written well but they felt very disjointed to me. Based on the first half of the book and the quality of the writing I would recommend reading this book if you can get it for free. If not, spend your money on something else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But once I started to read this one I couldn't put it down,it took me 3 days to read it. I really like it.
DeadCapulet More than 1 year ago
I got this book right when it came out and then came back for the book signing. Since reading it I have given this book to 3 people as a gift and also recommend it to friends. I enjoyed it completely. I love how different each character was. Brown came out of the box on this zombie book. It did not feel as if I was reading a "zombie story". I think that is what I liked best about this book, it was and is such a fresh take on the living dead. The characters had real feelings and thoughts and even though they were zombies, at times I could understand or relate to there situation or feeling. I do think that Rita is one of my favorite characters in this book. I find it funny that she knew the makeup brands by tasting them. Also couldn't help but laugh about Jerry. He reminded me so much of these young kids that come in to my work. Bravo to Brown for writing such a believable 18-24 year old male. Brown describes not being welcome in your old home, friends and family turning there back on you, and society's intolerance. Though this all sounds sad, you cant help but laugh at times and be entertained.
DianeD More than 1 year ago
Most amazing and enjoyable book I've read in ages. I never really considered what it would be like to be a Zombie, but I have great empathy for them now. Just don't want to be around them if they stink. Loved this story. Can't wait for his next book.
Kevin-Darragh More than 1 year ago
A very quick and easy book to read, easily done in a day or day and a half, but it is still a fantastic book. It pulls you in within the first few chapters and doesnt let you go untill the last word. A book that made me lose sleep cause I has to just keep reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the title and book cover are what sold me... i began reading it on tuesday and between work and life... finished it the following wednesday... it was a very easy book to read... i loved how it was very detailed. what i loved most were the characters and especially how they felt. a lot of what they went through to be accepted reminds me of our world today and all the changes it is going through. in a off way, it makes you look at society and how messed up it is slowly becoming. a Holocaust story but for zombies. maybe i'm just weird for thinking that but the characters and their emotions, their lives, so similar to the ongoing hurt that today's society goes through. i think you will find a character in which you will relate to. it might open your eyes, so take a chance on it. i know my views are a bit screwy, and it might not have been the author's intent to describe how slowly our world is coming to an end and to take each day as a new chance to embrace it, but that's what i got out of it. i couldn't wait to sit down and read another chapter, i strongly recommend that you pick this up, you won't be disappointed with it that's for sure.
AFHockeyChick82 More than 1 year ago
This books is a great fast read. The story is very well written, very off beat, but also has a great social undertone. Seeing all the trials and tribulations that the zombies have to go through isn't much different than what some groups in america deal with on a daily basis. If you are a zombie fan, or a fan of off beat humor, i would definately try this book. You wont be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not into zombies, but I thought this book was hilarious. Great writing style, although a little gory at times.
dralf More than 1 year ago
Funny, and original enough to make it truly entertaining. Some great recipes! The ending is awkward and does not live (or reanimate) up to the rest of the book, but overall a nice addition to the zombie oeuvre.
yowling More than 1 year ago
It may be about something that most people look at and write off as uninteresting or maybe gory, but this book looks at the story of the zombie/undead/reanimated corpse as a lament of the troubles he goes through in his day to day life. You find yourself hoping that everything turns out well for the main character and narrator of the story who is a newly reanimated zombie. It's a tale of love and how it takes a hopeless zombie to a better place. Detailed and not gory. Very well written. I recommend it to everyone as a "read at least once." It will keep you in rapture from beginning to end and is a reasonably quick read. I know that it will be one that I will read over again.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised as to how enjoyable this book was. It is written in first-person by Andy who is recently reanimated, meaning he died and came back to life. Andy is a "zombie" but not in the classic sense as he has all his mental faculties and desires to live a "normal" life of a "breather." Andy lives in his parents basement, mostly watching tv and drinking wine and weekly going to support sessions with other zombies. We realize that zombies have been in existance a long time and have been treated badly by hate groups such as the KKK and others as far back as anyone can remember. Currently zombies have no rights and are treated like pets. If they get out of line, the SPCA is called and they are taken to kennel-type facities until their guardians come to claim them. After so many days they are sent to a science lab for disection if nobody claims them. Andy meets Rita at the support group and some of the group start sampling Jerry's "venison" meat and start acting different. Andy leads the group in an awakening and a demand for the same rights as breathers. The dialogue is hilarious at times and after some really gruesome scenes Andy tells the reader you would not understand what is like ... unless you were a zombie. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fun little page turner of a book. Anyone who is a fan of zombies, black humour or sarcasm should give it a read. Keep an eye out for the film adaptation (but read the book first!).
JR19 More than 1 year ago
I love it and I could not put it down! The characters are snazzy and hilarious, and Andy's turmoil through the whole book just keeps you begging for more. It's dark humor at its best, and i recommend to everyone who's a zombie fan or who is looking for something totally different. It's an amazing book.
PriPri More than 1 year ago
A hidden gem among zombie novels! This was fantastic! There were so many parallels between the treatment of zombies and other minorities that it really made me sad for them. This was funny, yet touching and really made you think. Typically you're cheering for the living and hoping they don't get eaten, but in this you were hoping that the zombies made it out okay. And a few people got eaten that teally, really deserved it!