A superb love story from the number-one New York Times best-selling author Anna Quindlen
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.
©2014 Anna Quindlen (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Carrington MacDuffie's rich voice is a perfect match for Quindlen's exquisite story.... [her] natural style and subtle character voices add even more charm to the story, keeping the listener engaged from start to finish." (AudioFile)
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"A Gentrified Harlequin"
This book got an unqualified rave in the New York Times Book Review. I was led to expect a wry, tough-minded, light-hearted, clear-eyed look at the plight of a single, sixty-year-old artist and her world.
Not so! Stuffed with clunky stereotypes, improbable coincidences and dubious epiphanies, this book gives "chick lit" its reputation for triviality. Our heroine, Rebecca, is tall and effortlessly slender, like any romance novel heroine, except much more tastefully dressed -- black everything, straight un-dyed hair and no makeup, which I suppose is meant to signal her stature as a serious artist. (This is the first wrong note: If Nora Ephron taught us anything, it's that sixty for women is nothing if not relentless grooming). It has been twenty years since her divorce, but she chews over this old failure endlessly, with no apparent insight: her ex-husband is portrayed in terms so exclusively negative I half-expected him to start twirling a pair of mustachios. The village in which she finds herself has an equally manichean populace: one is either good and simple (the baker) or cruel and incompetent (the baker's husband). Our heroine's love interest is a rough-hewn, straight-talking man's man, who spends an awful lot of time setting a good example and threatening the folks who won't follow it. Lest you excuse him as just the male counterpart of Rebecca, acquiring the habit of warning kids off his lawn, he's much much younger than she. And an environmentalist. And, true to the romance genre, he has a Secret Sorrow, which provides the pivot on which this creaky tale balances. So careless is the plot that at one point I thought perhaps Rebecca was going to be revealed, thrillingly, as not an artist, but a dimwit: she writes a crucial letter to her love, but never sends it, because she does not know his address. Though she HAS been to his house, which is just down the road. And he's been faithfully plowing her drive all winter.
The author has some good descriptions of the domestic woes of a young mother, and has a sharp eye for the customs and citizens of high culture: I found myself wishing Rebecca would stay in this world and fight for her work. It would have been a truer, and harder-won, victory. But instead, I think we can confidently expect a middling Hollywood movie, starring Diane Lane or Julianna Margulies, with whoever is taking over Viggo Mortensen's roles as the younger hunk.
I now picture the NYT reviewer: well-educated, well-connected, in head-to-toe Eileen Fisher, who would never be caught with anything like Fabio on the cover of a book she reads, but who nonetheless yearns for Romance. The cover is completely respectable -- you can carry it without shame on the subway -- but the goods within are shoddy indeed.
"Predictable, one-dimensional, & rambling..."
Still Life with Bread Crumbs has been called the literary equivalent of comfort food, but it just made me feel uncomfortable. I really wanted to like this, since it is authored by Anna Quindlen and the premise sounded somewhat interesting; after the story devolved into a vaguely creepy May-December romance lacking Quindlen's usual gifted writing I was sadly disappointed. I had hoped for a book with more than a predictable plot, one-dimensional characters, and rambling writing, but when I came to the list of words that Rebecca's dog could understand and read the phrase "But that was later" for what seemed like the fiftieth time, I knew I wasn't going to find the depth and exceptional writing I was looking for in Still Life with Bread Crumbs. I've read and really enjoyed several of Quindlen's previous novels and essays, but I'm afraid I may pass on her future books.
I wanted to love this book because I have so enjoyed (most of) Anna Quindlen's other books. But this one--not so much. The story is all too predictable.
"Thin and a bit sappy"
If you're looking for something a cut above a romance novel that will keep you mildly entertained, fine. But if you want a book with substance, polished prose, original characters, and an interesting conclusion, forget it. This is like comfort food, but not very good comfort food, and, not to give away the ending, but everything is wrapped up in too neat a package. There's no message here at all. Just a story about an older woman who gets a bit lost and then finds a new, seemingly perfect life.
"Exceeded My High Expectations"
A fine example of why Anne Quindlen is so enormously popular. I prefer her fiction and boy, she did a great job with this one. She paints a story with her words that makes you see the picture more clear as the story develops. Weather conditions made it possible for me to start this book the day I purchased it . I could not put it down and frankly will reread this before starting anything else.
I identified with the protagonist. I am betting that the popularity of this novel will follow that of the age of reader. Middle aged and older readers will be the ones that most identify, understand and enjoy this beautiful novel. Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a story of a woman that once again finds herself at another transitional point in her life. She never expected to be reinventing herself at this point in her life, but she is, so she moves forward allows serendipity to lead her way and is rewarded.
There were several points in this book where I laughed out. Stopped where I was - rewound it so I could laugh again. Carrington MacDuffle did such a perfect job. There are several characters in this book that are real characters. Her narration were spot on and added to their quirkiness. I only wished it was twice as long.
"Unrealistic and dull"
I usually like Anna Quindlen's books, but this one was dull and the characters felt more like an assemblage of stereotypes than real people. The worldly New York artist (who is apparently broke but sneers at being offered a job paying $200 dollars a day); the overly-chatty cafe owner; the outdoorsy guy who seems drawn to the artist for reasons we can't quite understand.
. The writing was meandering and it felt like the author had a quota of pages to fill, rather than a true story that needed telling.
Unless you believe that a Plain Jane 60 year old women with no obvious personality is likely to find love within 5 minutes of moving to a brand new town, then you might want to skip this one.
Miss reading her in the Times. Haven't read one of her books and this was an excellent place to start. Really enjoyed it.
"Boring & Predictable"
I'm not sure anything could have made this a better listening experience. Editing, perhaps? It went on way too long - 55 chapters! The ending was predictable, but it took forever to get to it.
I could not believe Anna Quindlen wrote this sappy thin story with one-dimensional characters.
The narrator's voice was iritating. I'm not sure who could have narrated it better.
I would have to say disappointment.
"A pleasant story, an easy read"
A pleasant story, an easy read: faint praise, I suppose. But sometimes that's exactly what you want. The characters are all nice people. The story moves along like a nice walk in the rural woods. Nothing terrible happens to anyone who is part of the story. There's barely any conflict at all. The main character attributes her artistic success to chance and the reader can believe it's true. Her deepest emotion is contempt for the man she divorced decades before. If you like to listen in bed with your sleep timer on (I do that several nights a week), give this one a try.
"Love Anna Q, but…..."
Yes, but not based on this book. Have loved her essays and earlier books.
Maybe a bit too facile. It probably pleased some people but I didn't find it authentic.
A nice solid performance--not too exciting but, then, one must consider the fairly bland material.
I don't want to disrespect this book too much--and can't say I didn't enjoy the comfort and lack of challenge, but it needed a lot more energy. The real question is "was it worth the writing time?"
I felt like Anna Quindlen was wasting her time and, by extension, the reader's. Her other work is so strong and insightful; it always make you reflect and wrestle with important issues while retaining a wry sense of humor that makes you come back for more. This felt like sliding into the worst of the "romance" category. Too much buttercream frosting and not enough cake, let alone protein. Sorry Anna; I still love you. Hope your mood changes.
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