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April 12, 2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs



Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Fiction
2014 Random House
Finished on 2/4/14
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)





Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

It’s been four years since I read Quindlen’s amazing novel, Every Last One. That book took my breath away! It sucker-punched with me with its too-close-for-comfort plot and has stayed with me ever since the day I finished. I’ve read other novels and works of nonfiction by Quindlen, yet Every Last One remains my favorite. I was so excited when I received an ARC of Still Life with Bread Crumbs (love the cover art!) and had high hopes for another winner, but as far as I was concerned, this new one missed the mark. It was entertaining and held my interest, but something was lacking, keeping me from running out to buy the hardcover edition when it hit the shelves. In spite of my slight disappointment, Quindlen remains one of my favorite authors, tapping into the psyche of women my age.

On aging (and heart attacks):

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. In the morning she felt fine except for the fact that she had made her hands into little paws beneath her cheek and they had gone numb at the wrists. In recent years what she missed most about her youth was sleep, that ability to fall into a hole of unconsciousness and land, softly and without sensation, at the bottom, to awake ten hours later rested and with skin remarkably uncreased.

On becoming:

She had been so relieved when the car had turned in to the bumpy gravel drive, when she saw the dog emerge from the back shed, when she opened the door to what had become a familiar smell of old woodsmoke, mildew, and vegetable soup. 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, or 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. She considered the weight at the foot of the bed. For how many years had she said confidently that she was not a dog person? It just goes to show, whatever that meant. Her father had used that expression all the time. It just goes to show, sweetheart!

Final Thoughts:

While not as impressive as Every Last One (and maybe One True Thing), Still Life with Bread Crumbs is certainly a worthwhile read and one that I enjoyed a great deal. It may be a few more years before she publishes another novel, but meanwhile I still have Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake in my stacks. Can’t wait!

18 comments:

  1. I thought this one was okay, but Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, was fantastic!

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    1. So good to know that LoCPoC is fantastic. Can't wait to read it! I think her nonfiction is spot on.

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  2. Yay! We agree, sorta. I couldn't get past the first few pages since I couldn't bear the description of the house she was in. That's how strong my sense of place is. :<)) For me, what I love is AQ's nonfiction.

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    1. I love her nonfiction so much better than her novels, although Every Last One resonated deeply with me.

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  3. Anna Quindlan has a way of piercing my thoughts, even the paragraphs you wrote here (hands like paws, awakening numb with a wrinkled face) strike me as so accurate to my life. Didn't she write a book about perfection and the glories of not being perfect? I think so, and it often comforts me as I continue to hold high unrealistic goals of perfection. As if they were possible for me to achieve.

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    1. Yes, she did. It's called "Being Perfect" and I gave a copy to Rachel when she graduated from college almost 9 years ago...

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  4. Had to verify that book...it's Being Perfect, and I love it.

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  5. I've only read Quindlen's essays. I loved them, though, so I'll have to look for this.

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    1. If you're interested in her novels. I would recommend Every Last One, One True Thing, and Blessings over this one.

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  6. I really liked One True Thing, but this one sounds (especially from the quotes) like something that would resonate with me.

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    1. I feel like I've undersold this book with my comparison to her previous works. It's quite good and I think you'd enjoy it.

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  7. I love Quindlen's nonfiction (Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is an all-time favorite), but have enjoyed most of her novels, too. My favorite is probably One True Thing. Even though this one may not be the best, I'm sure I'll still read it. When we were in Florida, I got to visit with one of my oldest playgroup/book club friends on a day trip across the state. The first book she recommended was this one!

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    1. As I mentioned in my comment to Jenclair, I feel as though I might have undersold this new book. I did like it quite a bit (a 4/5 very good rating is indicative of this), but it wasn't one that knocked my socks off as some of her previous books. It's certainly worth reading and one I may try on audio for a re-read.

      Can't wait to read Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake!!

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  8. And see, I'm the odd one.. I loved Still Life with Bread Crumbs! I did not want it to end - I want to know more about the characters....

    Linda in VA

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    1. I agree about wanting to know more about the characters, Linda. And, don't get me wrong. I did enjoy the book quite well. (See my comments above to JoAnn and Jenclair.)

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  9. Sorry to hear this one didn't live up to expectations but sounds like even a Quindlen novel that doesn't live up to Every Last One (and, boy, do I agree with you about that one!) is worth reading.

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    1. Even though it didn't live up to my expectations for an 5/5 rating, I still enjoyed it very well. I may try to find the audio to listen to for a re-read. Maybe I'll be even more impressed with that format.

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