I recently finished reading Anna Quindlen’s amazing book, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, and I can’t stop thinking about the unexpected plot that Quindlen beautifully develops and weaves into the touching story about an older woman, Rebecca Winter, who discovers through various hardships that it is never too late to change up your life when you feel it isn’t working.
Rebecca, like the rest of us, thinks she has an idea of where life is taking her but then life throws a number of unexpected changes her way and things don’t work out the way she thought it initially would. Over time, she feels life has pushed her aside. She doesn’t tell anyone that she feels this way but circumstances eventually lead her to live a life that is completely out of her comfort zone. It is not always smooth going but Rebecca somehow manages to continue to tap into her reservoir of inner strength, maintaining a resilient attitude even when she doesn’t know where she is going.
In Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Rebecca is a once famous photographer who finds herself divorced and out of the mainstream of artistic discussion, all the while constantly checking her bank balances and worrying about her aging parents.
In the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure where Rebecca was headed but I knew that I liked her and her attitude of trying to make the most out of what she has. She is conscious of where she has landed at this particular point in her life, doesn’t like it one bit, but tries to figure out how it happened.
On one of her many long walks, Rebecca has a moment of introspection that stuck with me. She’s wondering why she hasn’t been able to sleep and tells herself that she has “bees in her brain, a whole hive, no honey.” As she trudges through the woods, Rebecca continues to mentally review her relationships with family and friends and pointedly remarks to herself, “People froze you in place. More important, you froze yourself, often into a person in whom you truly had no interest. So you had a choice: you could continue a masquerade, or you could give up on it.”
Anna Quindlen masterfully shows us through her marvelous storytelling what Rebecca decides to do. I don’t want to give any more of the plot away to you because I hope you will pick up this book and discover the rest of the story for yourself.
I enjoyed discovering Rebecca Winter. She is a wonderful character and if she existed in real life I would love to meet her.
Still Life With Bread Crumbs is a rich, healing story full of twists and turns and characters that face many of the same problems that all of us find ourselves trying to solve. How and why we let those problems change us is one of the overriding themes in this unusual novel.
In short, I would say most of the characters, including Rebecca Winter, show us there is no shame in starting over.
The character of Rebecca Winter will stay with me for a long while because I think in her own way Rebecca is telling us that we are all much more than the obvious roles we play in life and if we can learn to keep ourselves open to the unexpected, the sometimes painful surprises, then we can learn more about who we really are.