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Still Life with Monkey

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who savors the quotidian pleasures in life until a car accident leaves him severely paralyzed and haunted by the death of his young assistant. Now, Duncan isn't sure what there is left to live for, when every day has become "a broken series of unsuccessful gestures."

Duncan and his wife, Laura, find themselves in conflict as Duncan's
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Paul Dry Books (first published 2018)
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3.86  · 
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 ·  160 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Elyse Walters
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Duncan Wheeler is 37. He suffered a C6 complete spinal cord injury. Passenger Todd Walker, a younger employee in Duncan’s firm, died instantly, from
a car accident. The guilt - sadness - grief - devastating despair from your friend dying while you were behind the wheel and being a immediate paraplegic is unfathomable to comprehend to me. So sad!

Duncan is a successful architect who owns his own firm. Laura, his wife, is an assistant painting conservation technician at Yale University Art Gallery
Robert Blumenthal
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As I was reading this novel, I kept thinking that I would probably be giving it a 4 star rating--extremely well-written, very intelligent and wise, but a bit scattered and plodding plot-wise. However, this is a book that definitely gets better as it goes along. Never truly exciting (this author makes Colm Toibin seem like Gillian Flynn or Steven King). But as the novel develops, I became more involved with the characters and found some very nice moments that were nicely disclosed.

Duncan and Laur
Bonnie Brody
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Katharine Weber has written a spectacularly moving novel that examines what makes a meaningful life. Duncan Wheeler, a successful architect, is driving his car with passenger Todd Walker, a young architect he is mentoring, when he is involved in a fatal crash. Todd dies and Duncan becomes a quadriplegic. Duncan's wife Laura, an art restorer at Yale, decides that a monkey helper is the perfect thing for Duncan. She contacts the institute where helper monkeys are trained to assist humans in need, ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is always a special treat and enlightening to attend an author talk, and recently I was thrilled to hear Katharine Weber speak about her new book, Still Life With Monkey with contributing editor and former Book Review section editor for Publisher’s Weekly, Sybil Steinberg. Between research and literary knowledge, the intelligence on the stage was vast. With sophisticated language and deep characters, Weber’s Still Life With Monkey is a must read for all book groups. There are many stories wit ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
"I want a monkey," I kept wailing, as I read this novel about Duncan, a paraplegic with a capuchin helper monkey. ("...but not enough to want to become paralyzed").

I read this on a whim, because I liked the cover, because MONKEY, because it's on the short side, but I wound up liking it quite a lot. Aside from the vivid and charming descriptions of life with a well-trained, loving and occasionally mischievous capuchin, it's a moving meditation on what makes life worth living and a rich portrait
Susan Thomas
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book. The subject matter is tough- a young man is rendered a quadriplegic after a car accident- but the excellent character development and story telling left me thinking about this book long after I finished it . I read The Music Lesson, a wonderful book about a Vermeer painting by this same author, many years ago, and am so impressed she could write about such a totally different subject. Still LIfe with Monkey gives us glimpses into the world of architecture, art ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Daniel Thomas
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Weber writes a thoughtful story of a paralyzed architect and his simian helpmate. I found this novel realistic and refreshing in its candor about the struggles of those who depend on others for the most intimate of needs. The author doesn’t make a case for use of monkeys as assistants until the acknowledgements. Overall, a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.
Kat Warren
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Brilliant book -- both evocative and provocative, and finest kind reading.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, intelligent, novel with a title that perfectly suits the story.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Monkeying around with the will to live in the face of personal tragedy

Duncan is a successful architect. On his way home from a site visit he has an accident that renders him quadriplegic and kills his passenger, his protege’. The accident leaves Duncan in despair with little will to live. Duncan’s wife, Laura, a professional conservator, nags him into accepting Ottaline, a trained capuchin monkey, as an animal helper and companion. The three, along with Duncan’s twin brother, Gordon, are the per
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Duncan is a successful, fiancially set architect- partnering in a prestigious architectural firm. He is married to an equally talented art restorer. They live in an inviable home with all the amenities of a well-lived life. Their next step: to conceive or adopt a child. But, one day, Duncan's life as he knew it ended. A car accident - with Duncan as the driver, left him completely paralyzed and his young assistant, Todd, dead.

Friends marvel that Duncan is "still" alive after the horrific acciden
Anne Brown
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book! I was unprepared for how much I loved this book. It started out okay but then gained momentum until I couldn’t put it down. The characters were so richly developed - including dear Ottoline the capuchin helper monkey. The language and the storyline we’re both deep and detailed. the author did an exceptional job of sharing the intimate thoughts and emotions of the characters too. Such a great reading experience.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had not read any of K. Weber’s novels, but after listening to her interview on Bookworm, I knew I had to read this one. It’s a fascinating story from beginning to end, and I was completely absorbed by the relationship between the monkey helper and Duncan and Laura. The details of life as a quadriplegic are carefully defined, and the overwhelming effects of a traumatic accident are real. The side story of Laura’s career as an art conservationist is equally interesting, and Duncan’s twin brother ...more
Takes a while to see where this is headed, but worth hanging in there. What is a "Say Howdy" in a wrapper?
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wish all fiction was as satisfying as this book was. Due to great character development, I felt deep concern for all of Duncan's relationships after his accident (wife, twin, job, himself) and was moved by the gentleness of Ottoline. The evening after I finished this I had a very satisfying cry and appreciated the perspective(s) of Duncan's life after his accident as interpreted by his wife Laura (reached the bottom of a hill) versus that of his simple-minded twin brother Gordon (life continues ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was intrigued by the clever title as it refers to a helper monkey, a tufted capuchin named Ottoline who is trained to help a 37-year-old paraplegic man. Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who was severely injured in a car accident which killed his young assistant. This isn't my usual reading fare. As I read more of the new lifestyle that architect Duncan Wheeler must adjust to, I kept asking myself if I was enjoying the book and if I was really going to finish it. But, in spite of the ve ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels I’ve read in a very long time. Katharine Weber creates real, living characters you care about ( human and nonhuman). The book really affected me, and I am looking forward to trying another book by this amazing, talented author. The main character, Duncan, is an architect who is nearing the pinnacle of his career, enjoying the work and his role as mentor. No, his life and practice aren’t perfect, but he is happy and has a good life. His wife, Laura, is an equally strong cha ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story of a couple—Duncan and Laura Wheeler, an architect paralyzed in an accident and his wife—is funny and smart and sad in equal measures. Weber gets at the shifts and dynamics between the two, the ill and the healthy spouse with an entire marriage's complications already packed into their otherwise smoothly run lives, and paints a sympathetic but not sentimental portrait, sometimes harsh but always believable. The monkey in question is Ottoline, a tufted capuchin "monkey helper" engaged ...more
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book about many complex issues: paraplegics, infertility, husband wife relationships, siblings, end of life decisions, etc. And little cute monkey helpers. I really enjoyed it.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book that will make you value everything in life that we take for granted.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tender characters- not perfect, but relatable, even Ottoline. Rich in detail and a story that is sticking with me.
Leslie Lindsay
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeously rendered novel about love and loss, compassion, and humor, STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY absolutely wow-ed me.

STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY might not be the first book I would have gravitated toward--but I am so glad I did! Some books select YOU and this is absolutely one of them; I found it immensely moving, well-developed, and poignant.

Duncan Wheeler is a 37 year old successful architect (swoon!) married to a woman who is in art conservation (also, swoon) and they are trying to have a baby...
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY may not be what you expect. But it is such a lovely novel I give it my highest rating, and I seldom do that.

The story opens with Duncan, a quadriplegic architect in his 30s, after he is first introduced to Ottoline, a small helper monkey. You may expect, then, that STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY continues the story of “life with monkey.” Yes and no.

STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY is a character-driven novel that studies Duncan and the people closest to him, his wife, Laura, and his twin br
Bridget Nowicki
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
What a painful book to read! The fact that the author is a professor of creative writing makes me weep for her students. I shared an example of her writing (a half-page long paragraph that was actually a single run-on sentence) with a book group I belong to. All were appalled. One or two run-ons can be chalked up to creative license. The use of many, many, MANY run-on sentences throughout the entire book comes across as a misguided attempt at a signature style. In addition to the writing style, ...more
Laura Byrd
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
It took me until the end to say whether or not I liked this book and overall it was ok. The title is appropriate in that the timeline of this book in some ways stands still. There are a lot of flashbacks and understanding our main characters lives before the accident, but at times it gets cluttered with too much unneeded detail. The novel has very little movement forward which I thought would come with the introduction of the monkey, but no, not really.

I honestly picked this book up because, "Oh
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this book at the library and I'm glad I did. Exquisitely written with fluid prose and well fleshed-out, realistic characters, this poignant and tender novel touches on a variety of topics: infertility, marriage, paralysis, capuchin monkey helpers, twins, architecture, art conservation, and the question of what makes life worth living. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other novels by this author.
Ro Hart
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I as really interested to see how a helper monkey could help a paraplegic who wanted to end his life. Was really interesting.
Only four stars as I thought we didn’t need so many back stories.
Could have been edited better.
Pat Jennings
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This contemplative book is a story of an accident victim who is a quadriplegic who needs lots of care.
One of his caretakers is a Capuchin monkey. I picked this book up at my local library and read it on a whim. I am glad I did. Not a happy story but a realistic story.
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Katharine Weber is the author of six novels and a memoir, all book group favorites. She was for seven years the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College.

Her new novel, Still Life With Monkey, is just out from Paul Dry Books.

Katharine's fiction debut in print, the short story "Friend of the Family," appeared in The New Yorker in January, 1993.

Her first novel, Objects in M
“Lesson learned. To succeed as an architect in this world is to sacrifice vision to reality. The field of architecture pretends to be art, and sometimes a house design that is real and true gets recognition, but in reality, success is more often a business. A little seed of brilliance that had germinated and begun to sprout deep inside Duncan withered and died that afternoon.” 0 likes
“Never shame your client,” Billy Corrigan admonished Duncan long ago, when he had been employed as a junior draftsman only a few weeks, after his first disastrous meeting with Meg and Hank Waxman. “Always make the client feel smart and creative. Let the client think he is a design partner whose ideas fascinate and inspire you.” 0 likes
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