Still Life with Bread Crumbs. I chose this book to participate in the Winter Reading Challenge. One of the requirements was to read a book with a food in the title. I’d read some of Anna Quindlen’s work before and I thought this would be a good read.
But honestly, there were times I would have stopped. It was a slow read, the main character a semi-retired artist, Rebecca Winter, known for a series of photographs she took of mundane household chores. The title of the series that defined her career is the name of the book. She experiences some financial hardship so she rents out her expensive Manhattan apartment and rents a cottage in the woods so she can use the money she’s collecting to pay her bills.
But alone at 60, with an adult son who doesn’t really need her constant presence in his life, a nursing-home bound mother who doesn’t recognize her, an even older father who now lives with the housekeeper in a relationship she’s not sure about, Rebecca’s life is still.
And reading about it was interesting but at times, not interesting enough. I wanted the book to be over. And when it finally was, I wasn’t sure I liked how it was resolved.
Yes, she starts selling pictures again, new pictures from her new life this time. But at what cost? So she has a new person in her life. What is the prospect for a relationship between these people who have lost so much?
The thing I liked most about the book was how Ms. Quindlen foreshadows what will happen in their lives without the reader having to stick around for it. She says things like:
In the years to come, her grandson, Oliver, would sleep in that bedroom and feel very grown up. He liked staying there better when Alice stayed there too. But that was later.
I like when an author can make reader see into the future like that.
I would recommend Still Life with Bread Crumbs to an avid reader, someone who likes a story development and can find joy in the expected plot turns, someone who is looking for a story about a mature romance, someone who isn’t looking for suspense and fairytale, but wants a real story about a real person doing real things. There are definitely readers who like this kind of story.
But I would not give this book to someone who’s just trying to cultivate the joy of reading – I think they’d quit somewhere around page 10, when the chapter ends with this paragraph:
There was a long silence, and she shut her eyes. Then the crashing began again. It sounded as though it was over the living room now. How did I wind up here? Rebecca thought. How on earth did I wind up here?
I’m glad I finished Still Life. It was a 252 page journey but now I’m on to my next book, something a little livelier.
What are you reading these days?