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Still Life with Bread Crumbs

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2014)
Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.
Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

252 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Anna Quindlen

85 books3,677 followers
Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of eight novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, and Miller’s Valley. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.

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5 stars
10,748 (21%)
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14,536 (28%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,105 reviews
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews655 followers
June 4, 2014

The entire novel has a beautifully understated feel about it so I will aim to be likewise here.

Sometimes, when you finish a book, you just want to sit and hold it - to keep hold of the feeling the book gave you for just a little longer. This is one of those books.

Something special 5★
Profile Image for Roy.
69 reviews
February 8, 2014
I admire Anna Quindlen and like her writing a great deal. For that reason, I was anxious to read Bread Crumbs. Sadly, while the book kept me engaged enough to care a bit about the characters and where they ended up, I found the story shallow and trite. Anna's central character (Rebecca Winter) is an intelligent, accomplished and sophisticated professional (photographer), albeit on the downside of a brilliant career and separated from her erudite and egotistical husband. She also has a son and two reluctantly Jewish elderly parents, at least one of whom has left a noticeable hole in Rebecca's heart. Finding herself in compromising financial straits, she rents out her in-town apartment and moves into a rural cabin, where she meets the ditzy baker, the child prodigy who's outgrown his greatest skill, and the too-young blue collar boyfriend with a sad backstory, loads of homey wisdom and warmth, and a genuine concern for the environment. As expected, Rebecca is well aware of the "women's issues" in her life, but they all seem too forced and ordinary (which is not to say unimportant or unchallenging) to be genuinely revealing or memorable. Characters interact and move along in predictable ways, leading us to an ending that is...well, predictable. I'm not at all sure what the fuss is about this book.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,050 reviews1,833 followers
April 18, 2017
She is a prisoner in the amber of her own past.

Well, this is pure fluff.

Which isn't bad, per say, but there's no substance here.

It's about a 60-year-old woman (Rebecca) who was a very successful photographer, but now she is "poor."

Why is "poor" in quotes, Carmen?

Well, even though Rebecca goes on and on about her "poverty" in the novel, it seems as if she and I have different ideas of what constitutes poverty. For instance, she lives in a beautiful, spacious Manhattan apartment. She is 'forced' to rent it and stay in a cabin in a rural area. She was born into money and her career is as a photographer. Not a photographic journalist or even someone who gets hired by other people, but one of those photographers who takes pictures while on a walk and makes $200,000 instantly. Now the royalties on her once rabidly popular photos from 20 years ago are diminishing. She can't go out to $100 dinners anymore. How sad. Let me wipe away the tears with my plastic hand!

She worries and frets a LOT about money, but doesn't make any radical moves like, I don't know, GETTING A JOB. Whoa. I mean, come on. Let's not get too crazy here.

At night she found herself imagining managing a coffee shop, raising money for a hospital, anything with a regular paycheck. An office. She had never worked in a real office.

Actually, she's never worked for another person besides herself, and that was an artistic expression and a true joy.

ANYWAY, not trying to be a jerk here, just saying that I was finding it a bit difficult to connect Quindlen's use of the word "poverty" with what this woman was experiencing.

Let's see. What else?

Pure female porn, except without the boning part. Quindlen creates this male character for Rebecca's 'awakening to second life' who is a 43-year-old roofer who is former military and missing half a finger. You know what I'm saying. Skilled, calloused, capable hands; ability to do any household repairs; shovels her out in the winter; kills deer and brings her venison neatly wrapped for her freezer; she can call him any hour of the day or night if she has problems with the house; he's strong and carries her in his arms at one point... I spent 99% of the book begging Rebecca to have sex with this man. You can read my status updates if you don't believe me. Nothing is a bigger turn-on than a truly good man. And this man is so good - he supports and cares for his mentally ill sister, he fucks up a man who he hears talking shit about his fat wife, he goes around shoveling elderly women's drives - plus Quindlen is adding all the little woman-porn trimmings that I've already mentioned that make women salivate.

He wasn't sure of himself the way her husband had been, with an overlay of condescension. After three hours in a tree beside him, she knew he was simply a guy who knew things, just as Sarah had said. She imagined that the things he didn't know he didn't feel the need to know.

And Quindlen also gives Rebecca an asshole of an ex-husband so that Jim's goodness and "I'll take care of this" manliness are in extra-sharp contrast to her can't-cook, refuses to clean, snobby, philandering, piece of shit ex.

I mean, men who say, "Don't worry, I'll take care of this," actually mean it, actually take care of whatever problems you have - are golden. So fucking hot. This is a pure female porn idea of having a problem you don't know how to deal with, taking it to your man, he says, "Don't worry, I've got this" and then your problem disappears. COULD THERE BE ANYTHING HOTTER. No. See my review of After Last Call if you don't believe me.

This combination of "good man" and "could fuck someone up if he needed to" is exquisitely written by Quindlen. Men who work in trades, have huge hearts, and are also men other men don't want to fuck with are not only hot, but very close to my heart as all my uncles were like this.

However, she gives Rebecca a huge complex about being 60 and Jim being 43. I was like, "Take him to bed already!" but Quindlen drags this out for a good 65% of the novel.

This is like a romance novel for women who don't want to read about any sex. I know there's a huge market for this - not myself, obviously, since I love reading about explicit sex - and Quindlen is doing a great job at filling it. If you are a female who loves "romance books" or "romantic stories" but don't actually want to read about any sexual activities, this book is for you.

Another thing I want to mention about this book is it's rather predictable and cutesy "older white rich woman takes a younger lover, travels to a new location, discovers herself and gets a new lease on life!" Her old shallow life falls away, and her deeper, more meaningful new life with her younger, too-amazing-for-words lover takes its place. She finally realizes her old, uber-rich Manhattan life was shallow and meaningless. Now that she's living in the woods with her 20-years-younger lover and has adopted a dog, everything has become clear! You know the drill.

Quindlen just exacerbates this with passages like:

There were nights when she woke with a barbed-wire fence of minor but undeniable pain around her heart, and she rehearsed what she'd eaten that day - raisin bran, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chicken and rice, the cuisine of a freshman at boarding school - and convinced herself that it was indigestion, then wondered if she was having the female version of a heart attack, which she had been told was often overlooked, which seemed right since her experience was that women overlooked most of what their hearts told them.

I mean, is that deep or what? NO. It's not deep. It's annoying.

What about this?

One day she had been out walking and she had wondered whether she'd become a different person in the last year, maybe because of what Paige Whittington had said about the dog pictures. Then when she really thought about it she realized she'd been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she'd thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. Now she wasn't sure what that might be, especially when she considered how sure she had been about it at various times in the past, and how wrong she'd been.

I mean, it's fine, but this kind of pseudo-philosophical bullshit really grates my cheese. I know people eat it up with a spoon, but I roll my eyes and sigh. Too cynical, I guess.

I was completely rooting for her to take Jim as a lover and to adopt the dog. But the idea that she WOULDN'T do these things was actually ludicrous, you know exactly where the story is going. There's no mystery or subtlety here.

Quindlen wraps up her story at the end with a neat little bow. The "bad guys" get their comeuppance, everyone good gets a true love, money, and perhaps a baby as a bonus. Every character's ending is written out for us so that we can see their cutesy destinies.

Nothing's WRONG with this style of writing, but I'm telling you that it's simply a romance novel with the sex scenes removed. Throw some explicit lovemaking in there and I'd be happy as a clam, giving this five-romance-stars, and praising the shit out of it. However, I don't have as much love for neutered romance novels which attempt to pass themselves off as "women's fiction" or "domestic fiction" or *shudder* "chick-lit" or whatever the fuck people are calling it now. There's tons of literature that is labeled "women's fiction" (I HATE THAT LABEL) which is actually hard-hitting, heart-pounding, and thought-provoking, and great reads for both women AND men - but this is not it. This fulfills every man's half-formed concept of what "chick-lit" (another hated term) is - and that's not good.

Tl;dr - Is Quindlen a bad writer? No. However, this story is predictable, trite and cutesy. If that's what you are in the mood for - if you are a woman who loves romance books but finds it 'icky' to read about sex (I know tons of women like this, there ain't no shame in it! :D) then this is EXACTLY the book for you. As for me, I'd prefer my fiction which falls into this category of what is mis-classified as "women's fiction" to be hard-hitting and thought-provoking (which it often IS, please don't dismiss books out of hand simply for this label of "women's fiction" or "domestic fiction"), OR if I am choosing to read a romance novel, you'd best believe I want a thorough description of what the hero is doing in bed. With extra details.

The book is well-written, well-edited, and well-put-together, but it's lacking in innovation and nuance. A perfectly decent and entertaining read, but nothing earth-shattering or even unique.
Profile Image for Amy.
357 reviews34 followers
December 24, 2013
Love stories can be tricky; they can be too sappy and unbelievable or they can be overdrawn and melodramatic, but now and again they can be life affirming and heartwarming. Anna Quindlen’s latest novel Still Life with Bread Crumbs falls firmly into the latter category. Rebecca Winter is an unlikely protagonist for a love story. A photographer, whose work once defined the feminist movement, is now sixty, divorced, and close to broke. Her aging parents and her son have become somewhat of a financial drain, and her career is all but dead. Subleasing her pricey apartment in Manhattan she heads for a rundown cabin in the middle of nowhere in an attempt to save some money and hopefully recover something of her sense of self. Despite being in a remote local Rebecca soon befriends a cast of quirky characters including the local clown, the owner of the teashop, and a particularly interesting young roofer named Jim Bates. In typical Quindlen fashion, the story is entertaining and enlightening. Rebecca soon learns that there is often more than one point of view and that life is multilayered and complex. Finally given a chance to reflect, Rebecca discovers her true self. Quindlen’s keen insights into the subjects of love and family, ageing and the ever evolving self make Still Life with Bread Crumbs a compelling and delightful story, and is one of her finest; it should not be missed.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,695 reviews14.1k followers
December 21, 2013
First time I am seeing the cover and it is beautiful. Rebecca Winter, aged sixty, a photographer how became very well known with a grouping of pictures that give the book its title. She could be any woman or every woman, never expected to find herself trying to make ends meet, taking a less expensive cottage and renting out her expensive New York apartment. Finding herself ,like so many of us at that age, sandwiched between two generations, that of her sons and her aged parents.

This is a quiet and yet an empowering look at a woman who is now at the crossroads of her life. Quindan has such a knack for relating the little details that make a life, the emotions that swirl beneath the surface of everyday thoughts and actions. Made this character so easy for me to identify with and feel compassion for as well.

Had to laugh at one part, where she is told a story about someone who collected snow globes and than forever after, that is all she would receive for gifts. I had the same experience years ago when I started collecting snowmen, didn't really take to long before I hated the sight of the creatures. Now I say I collect bookmarks, these are useful and do not take up much space. Another part and I paraphrase, Rebecca says of life that we can live with the image others have of us, try to always stay within that image, or we can actually be the person we feel we are. Loved that thought.

Things change for her in a big way when she rents the cottage, so much so that she finds it hard to go back to the New York person she was. Could be she was not meant to and that she finally figured out who she was as a person. Loved this character. the other characters in the book and well really loved and identified with the whole story.
Profile Image for Diane Yannick.
569 reviews744 followers
February 10, 2014
First I need to get this off my chest: Reviewers, do not say that Rebecca, at 60, is "past her prime". I'm 66 and just zeroing in on my prime. Not acceptable jargon.

OK, my exact rating would be 4.5 as I thought this was a wonderful, beautifully written gift of a story. Rebecca Winters experiences life with the sort of acceptance that opens doors. She takes the time to discover her still photos rather than staging them. She doesn't seek but she finds. She doesn't expect life to be a joyous adventure but she opens her heart so that slivers can find their way in. When a runaway dog finds her, she welcomes it without question. When Jim Banks appears, she welcomes him but with questions and expectations that she needs to analyze. When he first looked her in the eyes she "could see the wear and tear of life". You only recognize that look when you too have some wear and tear.

Anna Quindlen could write literary fiction that astounds with its verbosity. Instead, she chooses to write comfortable prose that draws readers in and makes us want to keep reading. She gives us snapshots of Rebecca's life--divorce, son, aging parents, photography, financial struggles----that eventually make a whole.

My only complaint is that Tad and Sarah did not hold my interest. I could have done without them. Rebecca was a complex character and I wanted her to be front and center.

Rebecca "had learned to know what things looked like but not what they really amounted to". For me, that is the challenge of life at any age.
Profile Image for Bonny.
730 reviews26 followers
February 3, 2014
Still Life with Bread Crumbs has been called the literary equivalent of comfort food, but it just made me feel uncomfortable. I really wanted to like this, since it is authored by Anna Quindlen and the premise sounded somewhat interesting; after the story devolved into a vaguely creepy May-December romance lacking Quindlen's usual gifted writing I was sadly disappointed. I had hoped for a book with more than a predictable plot, one-dimensional characters, and rambling writing, but when I came to the list of words that Rebecca's dog could understand and read the phrase "But that was later" for what seemed like the fiftieth time, I knew I wasn't going to find the depth and exceptional writing I was looking for in Still Life with Bread Crumbs. I've read and really enjoyed several of Quindlen's previous novels and essays, but I'm afraid I may pass on her future books.
Profile Image for Lucy.
213 reviews2 followers
March 15, 2014
I am dismayed at some of the reviews I read of this book that derides it for being a "comfortable" read. When did it become mandatory that novels be torturous and uncomfortable? Sometimes a book can be a rich and satisfying meal instead of a bitter dose of medicine.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Rebecca, is a 60 year-old photographer who has gained wealth and acclaim from an iconic series of photos. Inflation and the vagaries of the art world have caught up with her and she has to downsize from her luxurious NYC apartment to a cottage in upstate New York. Here is where her life takes on a new shape and the reader is given the treat of meeting several memorable characters. For example Tad, the former boy soprano who lost his operatic career when his voice changed and is now a middle-aged man living with his mother and working as a clown.
Of course there is Jim Bates who could have turned out to be a cartoon of a hunky tool-belted fantasy in less skillful hands. Quindlen treats him and his role in the book with sensitivity and humor.
No spoilers here. I'll urge the reader to indulge in this satisfying meal and get your dose of medicine elsewhere.
913 reviews390 followers
February 20, 2014
Oh, Anna. What a disappointment.

I hope I'm not being overly hard on this book because I expected more from Anna Quindlen. I liked her memoir and remember enjoying One True Thing, and was okay if not thrilled with some of her other fiction. But she lost me with this one.

"Still Life" is definitely a good description of this book. It certainly is still, with not much movement. And it's more a slice of life than an actual story.

There are two types of characters populating this novel. There are people who like Rebecca, the main character, a formerly famous photographer who's now divorced and poor, trying to reclaim her life. The people who like Rebecca are all kind, goodhearted souls who are at worst a little quirky. People who like Rebecca include her adult son Ben, who's hip and cool and totally, uncomplicatedly, loves his mom. Then there are the people who don't like Rebecca, who are just completely unsympathetic. Her self-involved mother, now senile in a nursing home. Her insufferably narcissistic ex-husband. Her rude agent. Someone in the town she's moved to who's just all-around nasty and disliked by everyone. Anna's often captivating sentences and sharp observations unfortunately could not compensate for the boring experience of inhabiting such a binary world.

So much for characters. The plot is this: Rebecca, down on her luck, worrying about money, fearing she may be a has-been, lonely despite the fact that all the good people seem to love her instantaneously, has moved from Manhattan to a small town in order to save money. It's an adjustment, but eventually she finds love, rights the wrongs in her life, successfully reinvents herself, etc. Other than Rebecca's money and career problems, the novel didn't have a great deal of tension. The romance developed predictably, followed by a misunderstanding which felt contrived and more like a plot device than anything else. Things just kind of improved steadily for Rebecca, who was of course just so deserving of it all. Rebecca may not have been described as stunningly beautiful, but I'll call her a Mary Sue anyway. In fact, the whole book felt to me like a glorified chick lit fantasy. The love story was like How Stella Got Her Groove Back without the shopping.

Very disappointing. Yeah, there were some nice sentences, but if you like complex characters and an interesting plot, look elsewhere.

Profile Image for Sandysbookaday is (reluctantly) on hiatus.
1,928 reviews2,018 followers
August 11, 2017
Anna Quindlen's Still Life with Breadcrumbs was unexpectedly intricate and engaging. This is a book I picked up from the library for two reasons - I love books with quirky titles, and this book certainly appealed on that criteria. I was interested to discover what relevance the title had to the plot. It annoys me when the title is merely a title and has nothing to do with the book. I was not disappointed, but I am not going to reveal the connection. Read it and discover for yourself. Secondly, I needed a book with an author whose name started with Q for a challenge I am taking part in.

Quindlen is a story teller. There are stories within stories. Her characters are vividly portrayed. I love the way the author will be telling someone's story, and when she gets a bit ahead of herself, she writes 'But that was later. '

This is a lovely gentle story with strong undercurrents.

Profile Image for Larry H.
2,481 reviews29.4k followers
February 5, 2014
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

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.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book463 followers
December 4, 2019
I really love Anna Quindlen. She tells a story in such a light and easy way that you can be fooled into thinking it has no deeper meaning, but then when it is done you realize there was a lot of meat beneath the contemporary styling. Still Life with Bread Crumbs is the story of 60 year old divorcee Rebecca Winter, who has enjoyed a life as a recognized artist (photographer--which of course appeals to me), but whose career is on the wane and whose income can no longer keep up with her expenses. To that end, she rents her New York apartment and goes to live in a rural cabin that sounds cozy in the rental advertisement but turns out to be very rural indeed.

The story develops so naturally that you are mostly swept along, experiencing the loneliness and the learning experience with Rebecca and relating to the things she learns about herself. I can certainly relate to having your life turned upside down, since mine has been topsy-turvy for a while now. Of course, different reasons and different experiences, but I know the grip of fear that comes with drastic changes, not really wanted ones, at sixty-plus. Rebecca finds herself not only evaluating her present, but evaluating her past. Some of what she finds isn't to her liking.

Her biography had all the trappings of sophistication but no actual sophistication at all.

Just the kind of pithy remark Quindlen makes that says so much about her characters.

People froze you in place, Rebecca sometimes thought, trudging through the woods. More important, you froze yourself, often into a person in whom you truly had no interest. So you had a choice: you could continue a masquerade, or you could give up on it. No matter what Tad might think about her skill at adaptation, it was hard to know how to do that.

The right book at the right time for me.
Profile Image for Larry Bassett.
1,395 reviews290 followers
February 5, 2017
The feminine side of me is well represented in my reading choices. How do I manage to select books to read that turn out to be “chick lit”? I usually don’t figure it out until I see that most of the GR reviews are by women and then I sigh and say, “Another one.”

I first read Anna Quindlen when she had an occasional column on the back page of Newsweek. Although I do not normally read regular columns, I looked forward to the issues where she appeared. So when I saw this eBook on my online library, I checked it out. When I looked it up on Goodreads to prep to read it, I said, “Well, here is another one!”

OK, enough chick chit chat. The book starts out real funny with witty one liners.
The sound of a nail gun was interspersed with the faintest click of the camera. She’d liked it better when she was young and the camera made more noise. Or maybe it was simply that she’d liked it better when she was young.

And, because it is a Kindle, it is telling me I have “4 hrs. 49 min left in book.” Excuse me. It is my new toy and I am slightly enamored. I did read a real book earlier today and I promise I am not giving them up. (Truth be told, I am a couple of hundred used books ahead in my purchasing and I will probably be adding on $2.99 Kindle books starting immediately. Gosh.)

Humor. I like a book with humor. Anna is sharp and makes me smile a lot even between outright laughs. Rebecca is the protagonist in the book. She sort of accidently became a famous and successful photographer, has slipped a little in recent years, and is trying to get her mojo back. She has sublet out her fancy NYC condo for the income and is renting an inexpensive cottage upstate (as they say in NY).
Rebecca never hung her own work in her home. She felt it would be like talking to herself. Which she did a fair amount in the cottage these days. Otherwise she would never speak to anyone.

And right when I get used to pleasantly smiling out loud, Anna comes up with something that makes you pause. And then smile again. But a different kind of smile.
“She can’t be bothered to make an effort,” her mother would say to one of the women who came to play bridge. That was how Rebecca’s mother always let her know what she thought, by telling other people while she was around as if she wasn’t there at all. It was as though she had eavesdropped her way invisibly through her formative years . Her mother had a knack for lowering her voice in a way that nevertheless made her words completely audible, like an actress miming discretion: “She’s going to Holyoke. She wasn’t accepted at Radcliffe but apparently at Holyoke you can keep a horse.”
“Does she ride?”
“Rebecca? Certainly not.”

When I read Anna Quindlen, the columnist, I knew I was accessing a source of information. When I read Anna Quindlen, the author, I realize that is also true although I do not always think of it. This book is full of information about what it is like to live in the country and be a part of nature. We see this from the point of view of a woman who has mostly lived in The City. It opens your eyes. And your heart.

I am now 67 (68 the way my father counts) and have had three long term couple relationships of 13, 7 and 17 years. I have been trying diligently for more than the past half dozen years not to get into any situations where I think a fourth such relationship is possible. But it is nice to see Rebecca drifting around a potential relationship with Jim as the Kindle pages slip easily by. Relaxing and reminiscent as long as I stay vigilant. Is this what chick lit is about? Being cautious? Vigilant?

You know you are way out of control with your book buying when you are reading the most recent book by an author when you remember that you have the last one from a couple of years ago still sitting unread on your shelf. In this case it is Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake. That book is now sitting on my coffee table (Are they still called coffee tables?) awaiting more immediate attention than lost on the groaning shelves. It turns out that book is nonfiction – a memoir – so I might find out a little bit about what makes Anna Quindlen.

But the gentle one liners keep on coming.
Occasionally Rebecca wished her son would not be so very kind to her, as though she was the losing pitcher on a Little League team.

And the telling observations, sometimes about marriage:
She realized that this was the longest conversation she had had with anyone in quite some time. Perhaps the longest conversation she had ever had with a man, unless she counted Ben. She had imagined she would have nice long conversations with Peter after they were married, but it had turned out that marriage in the circles in New York in which they traveled consisted of men who pontificated publicly, and the women who let their faces go still while they did so. Maybe that was true of marriage everywhere. Between times, in their own living rooms, the men seemed to be resting for the next round of pontificating and so saved their strength by staying silent.

If it wasn’t a tad too saccharine I would give Still Life with Bread Crumbs five stars. It was an enjoyable book to read but just a bit much schmaltz. I am not going to mark it down for that, but I just can’t ignore it altogether either. Chick lit, huh? Well, OK, bring on the next Anna Quindlen! I needed that NY upstate blizzard that comes two-thirds into the book even if it is really August outside my window. Romance, snomance!

And what is a chick lit book without a mentally ill sister? A bookend with the demented mother who played the grand piano on the edge of the table. It is all here like the soap opera that life really is. But, all is forgiven, Anna Quindlen! Four stars forever. [Forget it: not forever. Five stars. I had tears in my eyes at one point before the book ended, hoping against hope for Love to Out. And if a book makes me cry, it gets five stars! That’s my chick litish rule! Schmaltz is tricky. Honestly? Too saccharine for sure.]

I can’t help it. One last indented paragraph.
“I was Rebecca Winter,” and her voice caught and trembled, not because of money, or dog pictures, or TG, or her career, or the lasagna that had never ever arrived, but because she remembered how her father would sometimes introduce her: “My daughter, Rebecca Winter. And yes indeedy, she’s that Rebecca Winter.”

Never say was, Anna Quindlen. You are better than that.

And they all lived happily ever after. Except the ones that died.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,146 reviews502 followers
September 23, 2016
Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.
My fist encounter with Anna Quindlen's books was
Miller's Valley . It inspired me to get more of her books and now I am reading them one after the other. I am amazed at how varied and versatile the themes of the books are. Nothing in the books are the same.

Although I found this book dragging out and adding too many subtexts, dumping a bit too many words, the storyline is still compelling and beautifully presented. The character studies are profound, brilliant, the detail outstanding.

The story is not only about a sixty year old woman who has to start a new life for herself, while taking care of her parents and son, it is also about the tale behind a series of photographs and how a picture tells a thousand stories in itself. Everything is possible. Even finding love and contentment and being fully functional in society as a member of the older generation. Sixty becomes the new forty and it is well proven in the theme of the book.

The protagonist has to deal with the metamorphosis of changing from a person who lived her whole life caged in an apartment, to one who is now living outside a small town in the wilderness. There's a hundred and eighty degree mindshift taking place as her life slowly changes from a cocooned larvae to a beautiful butterfly. For some people it happens later in life, but the miracle is always the same.

As with all the other books, a mystery is buried between the pages that is ripping the heart out of the reader. A powerful detail which underscores, in this case, a series of photographs taking stock of a life desperately calling out for understanding and compassion. It started out with a photograph of a wooden cross with a trophy lying next to it ...

A good read. Full-bodied, complex, like the finest wine.
Profile Image for Connie Cox.
286 reviews180 followers
January 7, 2015
I can always depend on an enjoyable read when I pick up a Quindlen book and this was no different. However, almost a week later this book has stayed with me, snuck up on me and may now be my favorite of hers.

Rebecca Winter is a famous photographer who "accidentally" became a symbol for women everywhere. The problem comes in the fact that that was some time ago. Her life is unravelling and she is at a loss as to how to get it back. This is a coming of age story, but the coming of age is at the age of 60! So the story begins!

“Then when she really thought about it she realized she’d been becoming different people for as long as she could remember but had never really noticed, or had put it down to moods, or marriage, or motherhood. The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product.”
― Anna Quindlen, Still Life with Bread Crumbs

I love Quindlen's ability to sprinkle humor throughout her stories. She is an honest writer. I feel like I have grown up with Quindlen and at this time in my life II related oh so well with Rebecca and so wanted things to work out for her. Aging is a struggle. This is a bit of a departure for Quindlen who tackles some tough topics in her books. This is a bit more subtle, it slowly pulls you in. This is a love story as well and I was delighted with that aspect! Quindlen has the ability to write real life, believable fiction. Was this a bit slower paced? Yes. A bit predictable maybe? Yes. Any less enjoyable? NO! It was a delight.

ps- I was lucky to get to hear her speak about a week after I finished this. She was as humorous and as real as her writing.

May 14, 2020

Q is for Quindlen

3.5 stars

This is a tough book for me to review. It is not the type of book I typically read. It was recommended to be my a friend. She told me I would understand why she gave it to me once I'd read it. I was reading and reading and couldn't figure it out. 60 year old Rebecca Winters made a life taking pictures. She kinda got famous. Won awards. And the ironic thing is, she won awards and got famous for her black and white photography series entitled "Still Life with Bread Crumbs," a brilliant and intimate inside look into the traditional roles of a wife and mother and a shocking and beautiful take on modern feminism when she herself didn't really intend for the series to be feminist. She was simply an artist who enjoyed the way the sunshine and natural light hit some dirty dishes on her kitchen counter one morning. Finding herself a little washed-up, a tad unhappy, and nearing the end of her career, Rebecca decides to trade in her clean and tidy, artsy-fartsy, posh and remarkable life in New York for a solitary existence in a cabin in the woods. Struggling with finding her identity, she strikes up a friendship with a local roofer and nature conservationist (and a much younger man) named Jim, and she takes a job with him scouting and photographing endangered eagles in the area.

I mean, the story was fine. The writing was good. But I don't know. It just wasn't my cuppa. I was not really all that into reading about a middle-aged woman and her regrets, her lack of passion, or her romance with a younger dude. And then something happened about 120 pages in. I read a passage that resonated with me. And all of a sudden I know EXACTLY why my friend recommended it. Rebecca Winters is an artist who was completely defined by a series of photographs that she didn't even believe in. And suddenly, I cared. I became invested. This author began to divulge more information about her relationship with her immigrant parents and her isolation as a child because she had a mother who had no interest in being a mother, and a father who was always so chipper, upbeat, and complimentary to everyone that she had no idea how he felt about anything. I also got to hear about her life as a wife and mother. A mother to a loving and creative boy and wife to an arrogant British prick. Maybe I related to her because her husband was such a disgusting piece of filth. Maybe on some level, she created her "Still Life with Bread Crumbs" because she was fighting against a husband who tried to put her into his box labeled "silent and dutiful wife." Maybe without realizing it she was fighting for an identity, an identity she had never known. And she changed everything about her life at sixty years old. Not because she falls in love with a much younger man. But because she moved away from everything that everyone else in her life wanted for her and expected of her to pursue something she truly loved. And in doing that, she fell in love with her own aesthetic and artwork in a way she never could before. And that is a connection that I needed to make.

And so I give it 3.5 stars. When I got to the end (because once I hit that 120 page mark, I stayed up literally all night to read the rest in one sitting) I was astounded at how much I loved this book and what an impact it made on me. But I knocked some stars off for the incredibly slow and dry beginning. This book is about finding out who you really are and embracing it. All the light. All the dark. The flaws. The truths. The beautiful and the ugly. Because we all are all of these things. And sometimes finding your match, your partner, your soulmate is not about finding the one that is packaged up all nice and pretty with a British accent and smoldering good looks and a couple of Ph.Ds. Sometimes its the slightly chubby, much younger, rough around the edges, unsophisticated one who looks deep inside of you and challenges you to bring out the you that you want to be. This novel is EXACTLY what I want most romance novels to do. The relationship/romance part of this novel is secondary to the theme of self-identity, and it involves two people who are not perfect who bring out the best in each other. Each is not the person society would have chosen for the other, but together they bring out a happiness in each other that is hard not to get giddy about. And there are some incredibly beautiful and meaty portions of this book that I did not expect. So kudos to this author for that.

I am a person who does what she wants and doesn't really like dealing with other people's bullshit. If you like me, great. If you don't, I'll get over it. It's the way I like to live my life. I don't like things neat and tidy. I don't always like all my stuff to match. I do what I do and I like what I like. And the right people love that about me. I constantly try to surround myself with people who love and respect me for exactly who and what I am. Because if I try and change for other people, what is the point of having them in my life? And that deep-rooted sense of my own identity, and searching for the right people to enter my life is exactly the juice that this book fed into. And I'm happy. I will definitely read more of Quinn's work. And this also goes to show you that sometimes books surprise you. I totally would have written this off as women's book club fiction (which is definitely is) and never picked it up had it not been recommended to me. So the moral of this story is hooray for books!
Profile Image for Semjon.
632 reviews324 followers
December 4, 2017
DNF nach 45 %

In der Stadtbücherei habe ich einfach mal blind nach diesem Buch gegriffen, da das Hauptthema des Romans gemäß des Klappentextes eigentlich nicht uninteressant klang und teilweise auf meine Person auch zutraf. Die Protagonistin Rebecca hat einen beruflichen Rückschlag und war aufgrund ihres Alters gezwungen, ihr Leben zu überdenken. Sie entscheidet sich für eine Auszeit auf dem Land und flieht aus NY. Also ein klassisches Aussteigerthema.

Also da kann man was draußen machen. Aussteiger sind meist freiheitsliebende Menschen, die wissen, was sie wollen, bzw. die sich selbst zu helfen wissen. Rebecca ist das Gegenteil. Sie mietet sich blauäugig die erstbeste Bruchbude ohne sie vorher besichtigt zu haben. Sie braucht einen Handwerker, in den sie sich verliebt (ohne das da natürlich irgendetwas versautes passiert, das will man der weißen wohlhabenderen puritanischen Zielgruppe in den Staaten dann doch nicht zumuten). Wer hier 50 Shades of Grey in der ruralen Version erwartet wird enttäuscht. Das Schlimmste aber an dem Buch ist die Einstellung von Rebecca zur Arbeit. Sie verliert also ihr Ansehen als Starfotografin in NYC, der ätzende Ex-Machoehemann ist weg und sie hat Angst "arm zu werden". Dieser Armutsbegriff wird mehrfach in der ersten Hälfte verwendet, und das ist ein Schlag ins Gesicht von allen Menschen, die wirklich unter der Armutsgrenze leben müssen. Rebecca hat nämlich nur das Problem, dass sie nicht mehr für 100 $ dinieren gehen kann. So etwas verdammt versnobtes habe ich lang nicht mehr gelesen. Ich finde nicht, dass man Sympathie zwangsläufig mit einer Figur eines Romans schließen muss, um das Werk zu mögen. Meine Abneigung gegen diese Tussi wurde aber immer größer, so dass auch kein Unterhaltungswert im Trash-Sinne mehr vorhanden war. Furchtbar.

Aufgeregt hat mich auch der deutsche Verlag Droemer, der natürlich dem Buch für den heimischen Markt einen neuen Titel und Aussehen geben musste. "Stilleben mit Brotkrumen" heißt das Buch im Original. Was denkt sich der deutsche Verlag? Dieser Titel klingt eher nach einer Biografie von Jan Vermeer, da muss etwas zum angesagten Thema Aussteigen hin. Ein Jahr auf dem Land wird dann noch umrahmt durch ein paar Bio-Boskop-Äpfel, wobei der aufgeschnittene Apfel am unteren Bildrand Agilität, Gesundheit und Abenteuerlust versprüht. Abgelichtet wird das Ganze dann noch vom Cheffotografen der LandLust und schon lechzt die Zielgruppe in völlig falscher Erwartung an das Buch. Statt Abenteuerlust bekommt man dann so eine affektierte Möchtegern-Künstlerin vorgesetzt, die sich nach ein paar Tagen sehnsüchtig an die gusseiserne Pfanne aus der heimischen Designerküche zurücksehnt. Die Frau ist echt arm, nicht im Geld, aber im Geiste.
Profile Image for Jane Stewart.
2,462 reviews838 followers
February 28, 2014
I really enjoyed this. I felt comforted at the end. Also, it was just good writing.

A really nice story about Rebecca an artist (photographer) who has money problems. So she subleases her New York City apartment to another and then pays lower rent to live in a small town in the country two hours away. She becomes friends with some locals. One friendship turns into something more between Rebecca age 60 and Jim who is 44. The story has a womens fiction feel since it deals with her work, her life, her friends, and her family. Her mother has dementia or Alzheimers, and Rebecca pays her nursing home costs. She also sends money to help support her young adult son.

I generally don’t like stories that jump around in time, and this one does, but it wasn’t too bad. It starts with her living in the country with flashbacks to her earlier life, her marriage, her divorce, and her success as a famous photographer.

I like the idea of an artist who hasn’t done anything for a while and then finds her muse in a new location.

I was engaged and very interested. And best of all there was a happy and romantic ending. If I could ask for anything more it would be to see the emotions of Rebecca and Jim for each other. That was not gone into. It was more about conversation and events.

Carrington MacDuffie was very good.

Narrative mode: 3rd person. Unabridged audiobook length: 6 hrs and 50 mins. Swearing language: I don’t recall any. Sexual content: No sex scenes with details, but statements that people spent the night together a couple times. Setting: current day mostly New York State. Book copyright: 2014. Genre: womens fiction with romance, older woman younger man.
Profile Image for Paula K (on hiatus).
414 reviews424 followers
January 31, 2016
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quinlan is the story of Rebecca a 60 year old previously famous photographer. She leaves New York due to financial difficulties and rents an inexpensive cabin out in the woods. It's a story of new beginnings. The highlight of the book is her budding romance with her roofer. A wonderful love story. A nice theme about her being able to reinvent herself at the age of 60.

The audiobook is only 6 cd's and quick to get thru.

3.5 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Karen.
561 reviews1,103 followers
February 3, 2016
This book was just ok...I don't understand the rave reviews from several magazines..
Profile Image for Renee.
1,485 reviews21 followers
February 21, 2014
The only other book I've read by this well known and respected author was "Black and Blue" which I absolutely loved, so I was surprised when I so disliked this book that so many people are raving about.

I listened to Still Life on audio and it read like a made-for-tv Hallmark movie of the week. It was predictable, schmaltzy and above all boring. The sentences went on like meandering country roads; going no where and in need of repair.

Perhaps I would have liked this better had I read and not listened to this book as the narration was fine during the parts of the main character, but the voices of the different characters proved disastrous, often sounding like vampires from Transylvania!
Profile Image for Carol Brill.
Author 3 books154 followers
May 13, 2014
I have been a Anna Quindlin fan since reading the first few sentences of Black and Blue 10 or 15 years ago. I still remember getting chills reading about the abusive husband's butterscotch syrup voice. I was hooked.
One of Anna Quindlin's many talents is creating complex and relatable characters. She's done it again in Still Life With Breadcrumbs with Rebecca and her new friend Jim Nates. Even the dog is worth caring about. This not a fast paced action packed plot driven story. It's interesting characters and just enough happens to keep me turning the pages
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,231 reviews451 followers
October 15, 2014
If you like Anna Quindlen, you will love this one. If you've never read her books, this is a good one to start with. Much less intense than her previous work of fiction, it's the story of a 60 year old woman who finds that she must re-invent herself. This reinvention happens is many different ways, a lot of them accidental, but sometimes, as the main character says, "You just know it when you see it."
Profile Image for Dale Harcombe.
Author 14 books292 followers
September 12, 2014
Four and a half stars. Some writers have the knack of taking the everyday occurrences and small moments and weaving them into a story that charms. That’s what I like about Anna Quindlen’s work, that and her honesty when dealing with subjects. I related easily to the main character, 60 year old Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose works reflected the understated tenor of this novel. This is not a page turner but it is a gentle exploration of a complex character and in particular of a woman who undergoes a momentous change in her life experiences. It is more than just a change from moving from her swanky city apartment to a cottage in the country. It is about the changes that occur in her and her way of looking life.
The prose is beautiful -lines like this one about Sarah the owner of Tea for Two abound. ’ She seemed like one of those women who couldn’t bear to leave a silent space unfilled.’ Haven’t we all met them? One of the things that impressed me most with this novel was the description of loneliness that appears about two thirds of the way through the book. It presents a heartbreakingly real picture. The book does have its humorous moments and I had to laugh at the related incident about snow globes.
Sarah is an interesting character in the book. Bebe Freeman, Rebecca's mother who is in a nursing home, is also an interesting character and it was not hard to see why her daughter struggled to relate to her. Tad the clown and Jim the roofer who helps Rebecca get rid of a racoon, her son Ben and her elderly father are other interesting characters. Even the dog becomes a pivotal character in the story. This is a novel to relax into and savour rather than one to rush through.
Profile Image for Signora .
600 reviews2 followers
December 10, 2013
First I have to say that I love Anna Quindlen. Maybe it is because we are of a similar generation, maybe it is because we both share Italian heritage and growing up Catholic but whatever the reason, when I read her work I feel like I am reading my own mail!
So I was thrilled to have an opportunity to read an ARC of her new novel, “Still Life with Bread Crumbs.” While this novel does not have the “punch” of some of her other works, it was a very familiar and comfortable read. It is a story of a woman…a story of a woman who has passed her prime and is still trying to figure out who she is…a story of a woman who continues to try to stay open to whatever life brings. It is a story about possibility, and new beginnings, and simpler days, and being comfortable in your own skin.
It is advertised as a love story and while it does involve a romance with a younger man, that is not the core. The core message seems to me to be “we are a continual work in progress…we are not set in stone…and the excitement and spirit of life is to be not turn away in fear when life shoots us curves, but to continue to move forward and in the process to continue to become. Self-discovery is something to be embraced.
Her main character, Rebecca Winters, is such a woman. Though she is sixty and her professional career as a professional photographer seems on the decline, she is still involved in “coming of age!” Trying to find ways to stay financially afloat while she figures out how to boost her bank account, she ventures into new territory, leaving her familiar life in NYC and moving to a remote rural town, living in a run-down house “Fully furnished. Four forks.” and fending for herself in strange and challenging conditions.
It is also a story about humankind and the longings for connectedness that exist inside each of us and how we are not always able to verbalize or act on those longings.
I savored the writing and the author’s ability to find just the right words and phrases to speak a woman’s heart.
At the end, I gently closed the book and said…thank you.

Profile Image for Laura.
743 reviews266 followers
April 18, 2018
Second read:

I chose this book to reread because I loved it so the last time. What a difference four years can make. Really disliked it this go-round and found it cheesy. The main character used to be quite well-known and wealthy and isn't anymore. Lots of remarks in that vein that came off snobbish and elitist. Just turned me off from top to bottom. I read it the first time and mostly listened the second time. Maybe that was part of the problem? Idk. The audio wasn't bad, it was about average. It just turned me off totally this time out. Truth, distilled? Not so much. I don't recommend it, and I almost want to say I probably won't read any more from this author.

First read:

Some people are just gifted. It's wonderful to see people like that operating within their gift. Anna Quindlen is such a person; she is a gifted writer. She is able to plop a bunch of words down onto a page and to somehow distill truth from them. I believe any woman, but particularly a middle aged woman, would enjoy this book.

I recommend this book for: any woman who has ever been married; anyone who's ever wanted to bag her life and escape to a cabin in the mountains; people who appreciate small town stories; readers who appreciate a good love story; anyone who wants to feel something, to experience life and truth, distilled. This is your book. Absolutely loved it. It's going on my favorites shelf.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,465 reviews9 followers
February 7, 2017
Rebecca Winter is a New Yorker and a photographer. She took some photos of the mess on her kitchen counter after her husband had brought home dinner guests unannounced (!!) and he then went to bed when it was time to clean up. These pictures sort of defined her marriage and later, after making her famous, defined Rebecca. Following her inevitable divorce, she lives on their proceeds, but now at 60 the money is running out and she is trying to continue paying for her mother's nursing home, her father's rent, as well as the exhorbitant maintenance fees on her own NY apartment. Rebecca decides to move to the country and rent out her apartment. There in the woods she finds more photographic opportunities, and other opportunities she never saw coming -- although I did.

I identified with Rebecca in multiple ways, being in her age group, a bit of a dabbler in photography, with more knowledge of nursing homes than I ever cared to have. But it was much more than that which made me love the book. I will say I wasn't feeling the love at first, but she drew me in slowly. Loved the diversity of the characters, the relationships that felt so genuine, and the sweet dog.
Profile Image for Laurie Buchanan.
Author 6 books297 followers
February 7, 2014
A simple story, really. Yet utterly compelling. I couldn’t help but turn page after page wondering “What happens next?”

A woman taken completely out of her context, not so much by choice, but for financial survival, has none of the amenities she’s used to. But through trial and error, she comes to relish her new — stark — environs. And through the lens of authentic and transparency — no pretension whatsoever — she discovers her true self and allows others to find her as well.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,063 reviews697 followers
January 29, 2016
This book attracted my attention because the main character is 60 years old. I'm glad to find a novel about an aging person of the boomer generation still involved with romance. This book qualifies for the "romantic novel" genre (I think). I mention it here because my recent review of Possession: A Romance indicated it to be not of that genre.

In this case the main character is a Jewish divorced woman who is also famous in the artistic community. She has been forced to flee New York City and move to a rural area in order to lower her cost of living. Thus beyond the age of the main character there's not much I can identify with. Nevertheless, the author Anna Quindlen has a reputation for writing stories that capture the angsts of her current generation, and if this book is any indication it appears she is aging along with the rest of us.

In this book she has developed a plot with issues faced by many of the postwar baby boom generation. Issues such as paying for nursing home care and apartment rent for her aged parents, helping out her young adult son with occasional financial assistance, and doing this while also facing the reality of reduced personal income.

The example in this story of a city sicker subletting her Upper West Side Manhattan apartment and renting a cottage upstate in the woods, sight unseen, provides an admirable example of setting out on a new chapter in life with gusto. Her bravery continues to be demonstrated at the book's opening chapter when she is awakened during the middle of her first night in the cottage by loud noises in the attic. It's a tough way to learn that she is sharing the building with a raccoon. And not surprisingly, this incident leads to continuing adventures narrated by the rest of the book.

I can't say much more about this story without being a spoiler. So I will limit my comments to this. Failure to communcate can lead to a lot of problems, but it also creates good novel plots.

The following short review is from the PageADay Book Lover's Calendar for January 29, 2016:
A Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and bestselling novelist returns with a love story that will please her many fans. Formerly successful photographer Rebecca is forced to move out of Manhattan to a humble cabin in upstate New York when her income dwindles. The challenges of life in the country seem daunting, until a local roofer named Jim helps Rebecca adjust to her new surroundings. Packed with light, sophisticated wit, the novel delivers the message that it's never too late for a second chance.
STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2014)
Profile Image for Caroline Angell.
Author 1 book69 followers
November 16, 2016
So incredibly late to the party on this book and this author. But I loved it. The central struggle of what it means to remain relevant as an artist -- and a woman -- and how one must continue to examine the evolution of those things felt incredibly poignant to me. And the world of this novel was so richly imagined. I wanted to live in the community the author created!
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