Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
There's always plenty to love about a new novel by Anna Quindlen! I felt immediate sympathy for Rebecca Winter, the photographer who at age 60, considers herself at an impasse in her life. Once famous as a groundbreaking (some say feminist artist), her fame has peaked and her finances are precarious. The only way she can pay her bills, including her mother's nursing home tab, is to rent out the Manhattan apartment she owns and move upstate and become a renter herself. Clearly she is lonely and running scared.
When the rundown cabin she moves into proves to have a raccoon inhabitant in the attic, she gets help from a roofer/Wildlife worker named Jim Bates. Eventually, he helps Rebecca find work as a nature photographer. She also finds herself becoming a hiker and begins photographing a series of mysterious white cross shrines she finds in the woods. She begins to think these may be the best photos she's ever taken. Reluctantly, then more enthusiastically, she accepts the company of a stray dog and also photographs him. Supporting characters in the small town take a shine to Rebecca, though she tends to shrug off her former fame. Connections between Jim and Rebecca provide complications and mysteries. Taken all together, these characters exemplify small town life and really paint a picture of the world Rebecca has dropped into.
If I was to pick at anything about this book, it would be the predictable nature of the somewhat timeworn plot arc where a big city girl morphs into a country mouse, etc. But I forgive Quindlen this structure for it afforded me communion with the soul of the artist Rebecca Winter. I found her to be so unique and interesting, she truly seemed real to me. Thus I read the book quickly and felt quite bereft when the novel ended, not that it ended sadly, but just because my time with everyone between its book covers was over.