The problem was that she’d thought that at a certain point she would be a finished product. ow 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. - from Still Life with Breadcrumbs, page 223 -
Rebecca Winter made her mark as a photographer with one photograph – a domestic scene of crumbs and dirty dishes. Her name became synonymous with women’s rights and the anger of housewives. But that was then.
Now she finds herself at age sixty, divorced, struggling financially, tasked with caring for her aging parents, and alone. She is forced to rent out her home in New York City (a home she loves) and moves out to the country to a rambling, tumbledown cabin in the woods. Rebecca has no idea how she is going to support herself. She feels creatively stagnant and anxious. And then one day, walking in the woods, she discovers a white cross placed haphazardly on the forest floor and she snaps a photo.
As Still Life with Breadcrumbs unfolds, Rebecca meets a roofer named Jim and adopts a mangy dog.. She continues to find the strange white crosses in the woods and begins to think her life may be on the upswing. But life does not always follow the path one thinks it will…and Rebecca begins to wonder if the images behind her lens may not be all there is to life.
Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite authors after having read her brilliant, albeit disturbing, novel Every Last One (read my review). I was excited to pick up this latest book, and I am glad I did. Although I do not think it rises to the level of achievement of Every Last One, it is full of beautifully written characters and unexpected turns of events. Rebecca’s growth – from a woman seeking acclaim to a woman recognizing the more important things in life – drives the narrative. I loved how although she does not consider herself a dog person, Rebecca finds a bond with a homeless, neglected dog who steals her heart.
Quindlen explores the themes of aging, rediscovery, love and friendship in her new novel. I was glad to read a novel with a sixty year old protagonist who was still vital, funny, and interesting (too often older characters are portrayed negatively in fiction).
Quindlen’s prose compels the reader to keep turning the pages…and Still Life With Breadcrumbs will certainly appeal to those who love women’s fiction and well constructed characters.
This book was long listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.