Author: Susan Gloss
Source: from publisher for review
Summary: Wonderful characters and friendships, vivid descriptions, just a little light and neatly wrapped up.
After a miscarriage and several failed IVF treatments, Nell’s marriage has become strained and her job has been on hold for years. To distract herself, she decides to take a job as the head of a new artists residency program, the Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony. The first year’s residents have already been chosen by Betsy Barret, who established the program in her will. Nell quickly discovers that the three artists will be just as hard to cope with as the rest of her life. Paige refuses to connect with others, avoiding commitment to one relationship or one art form. Annie appears to be continuing the gritty photography she’s known for while doing pot in the basement. And metalworker Odin is struggling to recover from a loss of his own.
I picked this up because I loved the author’s first book, Vintage. I was happy to find the same wonderful friendships in this book. The author also revisited one of my favorite tropes, where a number of diverse character’s lives intersect and they’re all the better for the experience. For those of you who read Vintage, Betsy is a character from the first book and the other main characters make a fun cameo as well. Each chapter of this book connected to a piece of art, in the same way each chapter of the previous book connected to an item at the vintage store.
Something I didn’t properly credit the author for in the previous book is her ability to use details to bring a scene to life. In both books, the author’s love of vintage items, especially clothing and art, definitely shows. Each of these items are rendered in loving detail. However, I don’t think she spent too much time on these pieces and this gift translated to other areas of the book. Some of my favorite details included the liquor store clerk reading a National Book Award nominee and the main character reading articles about fertility on PubMed. They’re references I know make sense. Can confirm the author did her homework. Even in cases where I’m uninformed, I appreciated the descriptions. It’s fun to come across particulars that match your life, but even those that don’t add a nice verisimilitude to a story.
I do have two complaints that are new from the last book as well, perhaps due to ways I’ve changed as a reader. First, I didn’t feel like I got to know each of the individual characters with much depth. We were balancing 5 perspectives – Nell, Betsy, and the three artists – and they didn’t all get equal airtime. I would have happily read a longer book to get to spend more time getting to know the artists. Second, the ending felt just a tiny bit too neatly wrapped up to me. I think I used to have more tolerance for coincidences if they led to the happy endings that I enjoy so much. Now, I’m starting to want something a little more believable, even if that means something more bittersweet.
That said, I enjoyed this enough that I want to leave you with a positive note. Gloss’s characters and detailed descriptions are truly a delight to read. Although they deal with some tough topics, they promise a happy, heartwarming ending every time and sometimes that’s just what I need.