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The Bowl Is Already Broken: A Novel
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The Bowl Is Already Broken: A Novel

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  165 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Promise Whittaker, the diminutive but decisive acting director of the Museum of Asian Art, is pregnant again--and that's just the beginning of her problems. Her mentor, the previous director, has suddenly quit, and is on a dig in China's Taklamakan Desert. Her favorite curator has dropped a priceless porcelain bowl, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, down the museum's steps. ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 21st 2006 by Picador (first published April 1st 2005)
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May 29, 2011 Debra rated it liked it

Zuravleff weaves together D.C. destinations, interesting characters (whom she treats with kindness, so you can't help but like them), Asian art, philosophy, and what I suspect is a frighteningly accurate portrayal of museum politics and players to create what I found a fresh (i.e., original) and refreshing story. Zuravleff, with poignancy and humor (thank goodness), demonstrates that we all have our "stuff" to get through: Promise Whittaker has become the acting director of the Museum of Asian A

Apr 08, 2016 Debie rated it it was amazing
One of my top 10 books
Lorin Kleinman
Apr 22, 2011 Lorin Kleinman rated it really liked it
Something sinister is afoot at the Museum of Asian Art. Its longtime director Joseph Lattimore has suddenly and inexplicably quit, leaving his diminutive and squeaky-voiced lieutenant Promise Whittaker in charge. One curator is hell-bent on acquiring a bowl that belonged to Thomas Jefferson; another is determined to have a son, and has been pilfering her department’s travel funds to buy fertility treatments. But why did the director leave? And why is a workman employed by a fast-food company ...more
Amanda R
It always makes me wonder what's up with myself when I look on Amazon and read nothing but raving reviews for books that I find dull. For some reason, I just didn't click with this one. The subject and book jacket seemed interesting enough, but I trudged through this, even though I did read it pretty rapidly. I think in the end, it just didn't interest me as much as I thought it would, though the writing wasn't terrible, by any means. The situation I found most interesting was that of Min, the ...more
Dec 25, 2009 Jessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had trouble getting into this book, but once I got past the first 75 pages or so, I began to enjoy. Zuravleff alternate between different times and characters in a way that is sometimes disorienting. But as you progress into the book, it becomes more a tale of characters than a tale of a museum on the brink of extinction. The characters presented are intriguing. It feels as though the author purposefully left parts of personalities incomplete, in a way that makes each person more mysterious. ...more
Dec 25, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
I had read this book last year but decided to re-read it. It has a lot of technical info on behind the scenes museum management and lots of Asian art info. What I loved about the book was her characters. The family scenes were so warm and believable. The main character Promise was well developed and quite real. I felt as if their lives were all going on after the book ended. The politics of museums was interesting and in light of 9/11, this book written pre that event had some interesting ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Japanese art of repairing a broken vessel with lacquer and gold dust, rendering it more valuable.
Such is the thread of this book.
I love reading about the machinations of institutions, especially in The Arts realm, so I enjoyed this book a lot.
The sprinkling of Rumi is a lovely touch, as well.
I could have done with a little less of the preggers problems of the protagonist (sorry-can't resist breaking the alliteration law) and her sidekick.
I will read another book by this author.
May 09, 2014 Paddy rated it it was ok
Recently I heard a snippet of a radio interview with a British male, don't know who, that reminded me of this novel and something that made me take note and wonder, where was the editor? Or the author? A character spits out a lime seed from his drink. Limes don't have seeds. Lemons have seeds. This glitch interfered with my appreciation of this novel and I wondered why it stuck with me. Then I heard this anonymous writer say that literary fiction enthralls us, and a misstep knocks readers out of ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Alex rated it liked it
This book is funny, dead-on, and thoughtful, a tough combination to pull off. Zurafleff offers a window into an esoteric world, spot-on insights and descriptions, deep honesty. Set at the Asian Art Museum on the National Mall, it's also a hoot of an insider's look at the Smithsonian (names changed, of course) and a subtle investigation of some buddhist/zen principles. A stuff-ful, but ultimately quiet and resonant read.
Jan 20, 2013 Trace rated it liked it
There were some pretty eerie parallels in this book that mirror events going on in my own career/workplace. In fact several of the characters in this book could have been drawn directly from several of my colleagues - not for the events that they committed (some were pretty heinous), but rather for their personalities and quirks. I would have to say that the real strength of this book lies in its characterization - the characters were very, very well drawn out and believable.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Sep 22, 2008 Meg - A Bookish Affair rated it it was ok
Shelves: chick-lit, fiction
This book tells the story about Promise Whitaker, the acting director of the Museum of Asian Art in DC (a fictional museum). Some of the characters were a little over the top but the writing kept me reading. I enjoyed the local aspect of the book (they live in Chevy Chase, they ride the Metro). It's good for a quick read.
Jan 14, 2014 David rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a very enjoyable peek into the world of art museums and the somewhat satirical tone was well done. It felt a little like a Jonathon Tropper novel in tone, but with a more intellectual touch.
Apr 23, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. There were numerous characters and, at times, it was hard to keep everyone straight, but I could relate to Promise and her husband, and their struggles with combining their beliefs, goals, and interests with the reality of everyday life.
Dec 19, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: museum
This book was the selection of the New Orleans Museum of Art book club. It's eerily similar to some the things that occur at NOMA, which I found very interesting. Overall, very entertaining and I learned things about Rumi. Great writing style.
Jan 12, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
The underlying theme here is fragility: of human relationships, of objects... and on a more pedestrian level, it is a fascinating glimpse into the world of world-class museum and art world politics as well as a treat for you Art History lovers out there. Her first novel is not bad either...
Dec 25, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous, funny book. Favorite quotes:
"(They) didn't even know how to do Important."

"I understand," he said, misunderstanding more completely than a stranger would.

"One of motherhoods' marvels was that the wonder of this creation increased with each year."
Aug 14, 2009 Katherine rated it it was ok
This book finally caught my interest and then everything wrapped up too neatly. Setting is the American Museum of Asian Art on the Mall which has potential and made what interest there was to the book.
Sep 12, 2009 Alline rated it liked it
Buddhist teachings, Smithsonian museums battling each other for funding and attention, Asian art, pregnancy and motherhood. A good read.
Dec 25, 2009 Ariana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting fictional look into museum administration. I recommend this book to any former art history/museum geeks.
May 05, 2014 ACRL added it
Shelves: motw
Read by ACRL Member of the Week Meagan Lacy. Learn more about Meagan on the ACRL Insider blog.
Apr 12, 2008 Marie rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, women
Well written, informative novel about the art world, juggling motherhood with a profession, and internal politics in a museum--too many characters, though--could have been more tightly written.
Jackie Kehl
Jun 10, 2013 Jackie Kehl rated it liked it
A nice change of scene, as it takes place mostly in a museum. Part of the ending is a little too far-fetched, but otherwise I enjoyed it.
Oct 21, 2014 Anne rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Great descriptions of life and politics in an art museum. Quirky characters. Even though it's set in Washington DC, I kept picturing it at the Pacific Asia (former Pasadena) Art Museum.
Rebecca rated it liked it
Jul 01, 2013
Molly rated it liked it
Jan 25, 2010
Bonnie Jeanne
The Bowl Is Already Broken: A Novel by Mary Kay Zuravleff (2005)
Whitney 'eri'
Whitney 'eri' rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2013
Holly Booksh
Holly Booksh rated it liked it
Jan 13, 2013
Nicole rated it it was ok
Oct 23, 2008
Adri rated it did not like it
Nov 30, 2012
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Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of three novels published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Man Alive! is her newest. Alice McDermott called it an "exuberant novel, a sparkling book"; Tom Perrott praised it as a "witty and engaging novel"; and Jane Hamilton said "This is a book to share, reading sentences aloud to marvel at."

She is also the author of The Bowl Is Already Broken, which the New York Tim
More about Mary Kay Zuravleff...

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