Rebecca Winter is a sixty-year-old photographer and her career is waning. Years earlier, her photograph entitled, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, made her famous and became a symbol of feminist thought. Now there are fewer royalty checks and finances are tight. She has a long list of hassles and expenses, including an ex-husband, an expensive apartment, and a mother with dementia. Hoping to sort it all out, she’s sub-let her Manhattan apartment and rented a cottage upstate.
What follows is a fairly predictable story about a woman who struggles with rustic living, mingles with small-town personalities and, of course, meets a manly man. All signs point to romance when Jim Bates, the local roofer, takes care of a raccoon in Rebecca’s attic. And when Rebecca discovers some mysterious crosses in the woods, she grabs her camera and starts shooting, hoping she can revamp her career. Plot lines ultimately converge with the expected conflicts, misunderstandings and crises and the story finishes with a neat, but unsurprising wrap-up.
Besides the formulaic structure, I had a hard time relating to the characters in this book. They seemed flat and stereotypical, which kept me from knowing and liking them. The one interesting part of the book, however, is the author’s discussion of art and talent. Rebecca’s believes her success with Still Life was accidental. She took the picture before she even thought about it, yet it was perfect. Quindlen aptly describes Rebecca’s situation: “Talking about art requires artists to sound purposeful and sure of themselves, but she’d never felt that way. Over the years, she’d made up a lot of reasons because people didn’t seem to like the arbitrariness of the reality.” I think this is very true about all creativity and I enjoyed thinking about how talent and spontaneity seem to go hand-in-hand.
But in the end, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a casual read, with a simple plot and uncomplicated characters. I haven’t read anything else by Quindlen, but I’m wondering if some of her other books are better than this one. I’m willing to give another a try. Any suggestions?
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!