Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Review: "Drawing Home" by Jamie Brenner

"Someday you will find your own superpower."

Henry Wyatt was once one of America's most famous artists, but after years of success he decided he was more interested in a quieter life in beautiful Sag Harbor, where he could enjoy fishing, spending time with good friends, and being a regular at the bar at The American Hotel.

Choosing this life over a life of celebrity and excitement in New York City wasn't something his good friend and former business partner, Bea Winstead, ever understood about Henry, and it strained their decades-long relationship.

When Henry suddenly dies while sitting at the hotel bar at the start of Memorial Day weekend, Sag Harbor's residents are saddened by the loss of their most notable neighbor. Much to the surprise of everyone, Henry leaves his entire estate, including the beautiful waterfront home he designed himself, to Penny Mapson, a teenage girl and the daughter of The American Hotel's front desk manager, Emma, who grew up in Sag Harbor and has practically been in the hotel her entire life.

While over the last few years, Henry and Penny had struck up a friendship of sorts, and he gave her drawing lessons at the bar, no one understands why he would make such an impulsive decision about the disposition of his estate. Bea is the most aggrieved party, since Henry had once promised her the house and all of his work, and she descends upon the town, determined to right this most grievous wrong. She's convinced that somehow Emma had gotten her hooks into Henry and defrauded him, and she'll stop at nothing to prove that she's right—no matter who gets hurt in the process.

As Emma tries to figure out what this utterly unexpected windfall could mean to her and Penny's life, everything else seems to be falling apart. Henry's death has made it even harder for Penny, who is struggling with OCD and is becoming more rebellious to express her displeasure at being stuck in this small town. Her boss is unhappy with the burst of publicity that is following Emma as a result of Henry's bequest to Penny. And to top it off, her ex (and Penny's dad) resurfaces, suddenly wanting to be closer to his daughter. (Could it have anything to do with the house she just inherited?) The last thing Emma has energy for is to battle Bea over Henry's will.

In her effort to prove her suspicions, Bea combs through Henry's work that he had done since settling in Sag Harbor. She finds that Henry has left sketches scattered all around the town, and she's convinced that if she tracks all of them down and studies them, she'll find some clue that explains Henry's actions. It isn't until she gets Penny involved, and begins understanding what Henry was working on in his last days, that she starts to realize what Henry's intentions really were.

Jamie Brenner's Drawing Home is a wonderfully compelling story about friendship, love, art, and both the positive and negative aspects of small-town life, not to mention how the family we choose sometimes means more to us than the family we're born into. It's a book about the importance of communication, of second chances, and of not being afraid to lean on others when we're at our most vulnerable—as well as actually admitting we're vulnerable in the first place.

This is the first of Brenner's books I've read and I really enjoyed it. This was such a captivating, beautiful story, full of emotion and even a little intrigue, as I wondered what would possess Henry to leave Penny his estate? I will admit I found two of the characters in particular immensely annoying through a good portion of the book, but in the end, I really appreciated the progress they made.

I've never been to Sag Harbor, but Brenner's use of imagery really helped me envision it, and it couldn't have been more appropriate for a holiday weekend! She is an excellent storyteller, and I'm definitely going to check out some of her earlier books, because I can see why so many people are fans of her work!

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