Friday, May 3, 2019

Still Life with Bread Crumbs - Anna Quindlen

Summary: Rebecca Winter is a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women.  Now, with her career descendent and her finances shaky, she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere.  There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to the world.  Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the heart and mind of a woman, as she discovers a way forward that is richer and more exciting than she ever imagined. (Summary from book - Image amazon.com)

My Review:  Rebecca Winter is a once-famous photographer whose career is in now in the proverbial the toilet.  Cash-strapped and desperate, she must rent out her luxurious apartment to strangers to make ends meet.  Embarrassed by her misfortune (or current lack of fortune), Rebecca rents a ramshackle cabin in the woods (complete with raccoon squatter), intent on hiding herself away until she can renew her creative mojo, boost her finances, and finally return to the life to which she has become accustomed.  There, in this tiny corner of the world, Rebecca finds a different version of herself, a life and love that she never could have imagined.  A yet, when fame comes calling again, will she choose the life she once adored or the new one she has created for herself?  Now, it's not quite as simple as all that, in fact it's a great deal more complex, but I tried to boil it down a bit for you without giving away all the details. 

Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite female authors.  Like Elizabeth Berg and Alice Hoffman, I pick up a title by my gal Anna when I need to read something that I know will be well-written and worthwhile.  I have reviewed several of her other works, including Black and BlueEvery Last One, and Blessings and come away from them having run the gambit of human emotion and with an ever-increasing respect for her abilities as a writer.  My experience with this book was no different. 

Still Life with Bread Crumbs isn't a fast-paced read.  It's quiet, and slow, but steadily paced, with characters that started to feel like family and enough 'unknowns' to keep me turning the pages.  The narration is third-person omniscient, meaning that occasionally the narrator would let slip little tidbits of  information unknown to the characters, give glimpses of what the future might hold for Mr. So-And-So, or what Ms. So-And-So was really doing in her spare time, etc.  I think this is probably my favorite kind of narration because I like to feel like I'm getting the full story and not just someone else's perspective.  I'm nosy like that.

One of the things I love about Quindlen is that she just gets women.  She understands what makes us tick, our thoughts, fears, insecurities, hopes, and aspirations -- and dang does she know how to write about them.   Despite our completely different lives, I was able to slip into Rebecca's head as easily as breathing.  For the brief time I read this book, her life became my own.  And when she started to notice a certain someone, I half fell in love with him myself.  And speaking of that...

Alongside Rebecca, there are several other secondary characters who breathe life into the story, but none more so than Jim Bates.  Rebecca meets Jim, a local jack-of-all-trades not long after she moves in. Jim is one of those guys you just love right away.  He's down-to-earth, honorable, hardworking, endearing, and reliable -- just all the good adjectives.  That's Jim.  It was impossible not to root for their relationship to become something more than neighborly.  And (spoilers) it did.  But that's not the end of the story...

As her fans might know, an Anna Quindlen book is not an Anna Quindlen book without some horrible Thing that comes along when you think everything is fine and smacks you heartily upside the head, leaving you curled into the fetal position and gasping for breath.  The Thing in this book is not as truly horrific as the Thing has been in other books (I'm looking at you Every Last One.) While there were moments of 'awful' in this book, I never got my heart ripped out of my chest and, eventually, it all worked out in the end for (nearly) everyone involved.  I never thought I'd say this but I kind of loved and hated that. It's just not what I was expecting.  Clearly, Anna likes to keep people on their toes.

In conclusion, I enjoyed my time with this book, and while I might not read it again (it loses a little something when you know whats coming) I certainly savored the initial experience.  . 

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  A handful of swearing, some brief sexual discussion, a kick-the-door closed kind of sexual encounter, and (slight trigger warning) a character with mental illness.

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