A Sharp Intake of Breath is the story of Toshy Wolfman. Born with a split lip and cleft palate, Toshy’s life is an uphill battle. Believing he is dim-witted and ugly, he finds his resentment slowly building as he is ridiculed, used, and misled. Ultimately, he is imprisoned after being caught stealing a valuable and famous diamond, the Orange Sunset.
But Toshy’s story is not his alone — it is shared with his two sisters: Lil, a radical and a devotee of anarchist Emma Goldman; and Bessie, who goes to work for one of Goldman’s enemies, the owners of the Orange Sunset. His love for his sisters drives him to make some of the bravest decisions of his life. But despite having seemingly overcome his obstacles, an aging Toshy stuns his nephew by asking for his assistance in committing suicide. Toshy won’t fully explain his decision. Nor will he fully explain why, at this late stage in life, he is obsessed with making a journey to France.