For The Someday Book

Posts Tagged ‘romance

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, Random House, 2014, 252 pp.

Still Life with Bread CrumbsThis qualifies as book #2 in the “light summer reading.” As far as I know, I’ve never read an Anna Quindlen novel before. They always struck me as too sappy, with women characters who were too predictable to be interesting. This one was a basic story of a woman finding herself and finding love, in an unexpected place and in spite of obstacles. I read it in an afternoon on vacation.

Rebecca Winter is famous for a series of photographs called “Still Life with Breadcrumbs,” which have given her money and artistic respect, and made her a feminist icon. However, her work has not continued to thrive, and her divorce, care for her son and parents have left her nearly broke. She moves outside New York City to a small-town cabin, where she breaks with her Manhattan snobbery habits for the first time in her life. She meets Jim Bates, who fixes her roof and becomes her friend. Rebecca takes long walks in the woods, and joins Jim in looking for wildlife. Along the path, she discovers mysterious memorial crosses and begins to photograph them.

You can predict the outcome from here, can’t you? Rebecca and Jim find love in one another. Her photographs in the woods bring her back to artistic promise and financial security. Of course, there are interesting twists and turns along the way, some star-crossed lover moments with the two of them, and some interesting secondary plots with Rebecca’s parents. Don’t be mad and accuse me of spoilers. You will know from the first chapter, just like I did, that Rebecca and Jim are destined for each other. In the end, though, it’s a story we read not to find out what will happen, but exactly how and when it will happen. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it made for a fun vacation afternoon.

Still Life with Breadcrumbs is a simple story of a woman finding herself, getting her groove back, and finding love. Rebecca Winter is not an especially well-developed character with a rich internal life, but consequently we can read ourselves into her story. She gives us the opportunity to become her for an afternoon, and perhaps discover that we too can find ourselves, get our groove back, and even find love old or new. Enjoy your summer reading!

The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, Harcourt, 2003, 546 pages.

I’m not big on romance novels, so this book did not attract my attention for a long time. Its billing as a love story made me think of fawning girls, juicy kisses, pining hearts and all that other mushy stuff—not anything to hold my interest. Finally, a trusted friend who knows my taste gave me a recommendation, and I was desperate for something escapist to read quickly during vacation. This was a great choice.

This book is a lot more than mushy love stuff. It is an amazingly well-crafted intersection of two lives, one of which does not move chronologically. Henry DeTamble is a time traveler, against his will, and his life intersects with Clare Abshire from the time he is twenty years old. However, because of his time travel, those intersections take place from the time Clare is six years old into her adulthood. Because their lives are so intertwined, neither Clare nor Henry hold the entire story of their lives—they each only know parts and pieces, and their partner must forever be helping them by giving them the whole picture.

Throughout the novel, I kept comparing their unusual relationship to a more traditional one, and I see connections everywhere. I think all of our relationships, especially those that continue over many years, help us to fill out our memory and understanding of life’s events. J and I have been married for 13 years (tomorrow!), and we act as mirrors and memories for one another. One of the greatest gifts of marriage is to have a witness to your life. We go through things together, and we see each other change and grow. We remember our younger selves, and hold on to pieces of memory and self for one another. This is not so different from Henry and Clare.

The novel itself is a beautiful, intricate construction. Niffenegger somehow manages to assemble all the pieces of their lives—Clare’s chronological movement with Henry’s jumping about—into a cohesive whole. No detail or element of plot is irrelevant or neglected. The author deftly winds up every loose detail into a complete and satisfying story and ending. There is a sense of genius in the construction.

Most importantly, though, I just enjoyed reading it. I read the whole thing in 24 hours, and enjoyed every minute of it. I loved all the characters, and wanted to spend more time in their world. It was a great escape novel, with enough to keep the mind churning after turning the last page.


About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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