Friday, April 4, 2014

Book seven: Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen.

It's surprising how hard it is to find a book that is just an easy, pleasant read; a book that is well written and engaging without being simplistic; a book that reminds you how much fun it is to curl up with a good book. Anna Quindlen's Still Life with Bread Crumbs is just that kind of book.

Rebecca Winter is an aging photographer who once enjoyed significant fame and fortune thanks to a series of iconic images that many considered feminist statements. But sales and royalties from the images have nearly dried up, leaving Rebecca in a financial bind.  In response, she rents out her New York City apartment and moves to a small New York town and rents a cheap, run-down living space.

While in her new home she meets a variety of classic small-town characters that are easily appreciated for their humor, especially if you've lived in a small town.  It's that small-town setting that makes the book quaint, but not in a sappy, saccharine way. The book's quaintness evolves from characters who have known each other most of their lives; who care about each and are always ready to help.  Take the local bakery owner who loves all things British and fancies herself somewhat of a matchmaker. She's always willing to help her neighbors whether it's loaning out her large ovens to cook a too-big Thanksgiving turkey or sending some fresh-baked goods to provide a little cheer.

And then there's roofer Jim Bates. He's a big, warm-hearted character with a sister whose That  issues play a pivotal role in the story.  Jim also tracks birds for the state wildlife bureau and finds himself in need of a photographer. That interaction ultimately results in a relationship that while romantic, I hesitate to call a romance.  Why? Because I've seen this book referred to as chick lit, and it's much more than that. It's a book about the nature of humanity.

Of course it's also a book about art since that's my reading theme of 2014. This books feels like an honest discussion of art and artists in the modern world.  The way artists achieve success and then somehow lose it only to be lauded again later in life.  The way gallery owners are able wrest so much power from the art world. And the way artists find the inspiration to create new work. It's also a fresh take on the topic thanks to the mashup of small-town life with the highfalutin, New York art world.

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