Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review: "Still Life with Bread Crumbs" by Anna Quindlen

Lovely. That's the word that kept coming to my mind as I read Anna Quindlen's latest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs. It was just a lovely book, emotional, thought provoking, and really enjoyable.

Rebecca Winter used to be something. A once-revered photographer whose iconic works were viewed as feminist statements, her photographs aren't selling well anymore, her agent is becoming increasingly more hostile toward her, and her bank balance keeps declining. At 60 years old, when she receives a notable prize for her body of work, she realizes what this recognition means.

"To Rebecca, it was now official: she was done. Yesterday's news. In your heyday, you got attention; in your senescence, prizes."

She flees her posh New York City apartment to live for a year in a cottage in the country, hoping the rent from the apartment will help abate some of her financial woes, and the change in setting will inspire her to create again. Yet things are seldom what they seem: the cottage is much more rundown and isolated than she imagined, and the charming town she envisions is a little more smothering than she thought it might be. But when a raccoon invades her attic, she meets roofer Jim Bates, and the two strike up a casual friendship that teaches Rebecca that what she sees through her camera lens isn't always what is real.

As Rebecca struggles with doubt in her professional abilities, worries about her financial situation, grapples with the decline of her elderly parents, and ponders the dissolution of her marriage to a man who traded in for a younger woman every 10 years, she begins to feel herself warming to the cottage and the small town. Her daily hikes lead her to photograph everything she sees, and when she encounters a series of homemade wooden crosses in the forest, they inspire a vein of creativity she thought had tried up. But she has no idea what these crosses mean, why they're scattered haphazardly through the woods and accompanied by everyday objects, and their connection to someone in town.

This is an emotionally rich and compelling story about believing in yourself again, trusting your talents and having faith in your own worth. It's also about believing you deserve a second—and even a third—chance at happiness, and how the things we don't say are often the most powerful statements we make. I really enjoyed this book very, very much, and found myself devouring it very quickly.

It has been a while since I've read a book by Anna Quindlen, but after reading Still Life with Bread Crumbs, I was reminded just how much I love her writing, and how good books can make you feel.

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