Still Life with Bread Crumbs

( 78 )

Overview

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life
 
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 ...

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Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel

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Overview

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life
 
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.
 
Praise for the novels of Anna Quindlen
 
“Packs an emotional punch . . . Quindlen succeeds at conveying the transience of everyday worries and the never-ending boundaries of a mother’s love.”The Washington Post, about Every Last One
 
“New friends await readers . . . characters you will delight in getting to know and miss once you’ve finished the book.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about Rise and Shine
 
“[Quindlen] writes passionately . . . painstakingly uncovering all the intensity, suspicion and primitive love that bonds mothers and daughters.”The Boston Globe, about One True Thing
 
“A polished gem of a novel . . . lovingly crafted, beautifully written.”—The Miami Herald, about Blessings
 
“Mesmerizing . . . impossible to put down.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about Black and Blue
 
“A small triumph . . . elaborate and playful . . . honest and deeply felt . . . Here is the Quindlen wit, the sharp eye for details of class and manners, the ardent reading of domestic lives.”—The New York Times, about Object Lessons

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Joanna Rakoff
There comes a moment in every novelist's career when she sloughs off the weight of the past—the conventions and obsessions, the stylistic fallbacks and linguistic tics, the influence of early masters—and ventures into new territory, breaking free into a marriage of tone and style, of plot and characterization, that's utterly her own. Anna Quindlen's marvelous romantic comedy of manners is just such a book. In Still Life With Bread Crumbs, Quindlen achieves something distinctive, a feminist novel for a post-feminist age…which proves all the more moving because of its light, sophisticated humor. Quindlen's least overtly political novel, it packs perhaps the most serious punch.
Publishers Weekly
10/14/2013
Quindlen’s seventh novel, following Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, is a detailed exploration of creativity and the need for connection. Rebecca Winter is a 60-year-old photographer, once revered as a feminist icon, whose work isn’t selling as briskly as it used to. She needs a fresh start after her marriage falls apart because her husband trades her in for a younger model (as he does every 10 years). She rents a cabin in the country while subletting her beloved New York City apartment, needing both the money and the space in which to find her creative spark again. Jim Bates, a local roofer who helps her with the challenges of moving into the cottage, becomes a new friend, as does a dog that seems to prefer living with her rather than with its neglectful owner. Rebecca also finds new objects to photograph in the series of homemade wooden crosses she discovers during hikes in the surrounding woods, without realizing their connection to a tragedy in Jim’s life. Quindlen has always excelled at capturing telling details in a story, and she does so again in this quiet, powerful novel, showing the charged emotions that teem beneath the surface of daily life. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Praise for the novels of Anna Quindlen
 
“Packs an emotional punch . . . Quindlen succeeds at conveying the transience of everyday worries and the never-ending boundaries of a mother’s love.”The Washington Post, about Every Last One
 
“New friends await readers . . . characters you will delight in getting to know and miss once you’ve finished the book.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about Rise and Shine
 
“[Quindlen] writes passionately . . . painstakingly uncovering all the intensity, suspicion and primitive love that bonds mothers and daughters.”The Boston Globe, about One True Thing
 
“A polished gem of a novel . . . lovingly crafted, beautifully written.”—The Miami Herald, about Blessings
 
“Mesmerizing . . . impossible to put down.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about Black and Blue
 
“A small triumph . . . elaborate and playful . . . honest and deeply felt . . . Here is the Quindlen wit, the sharp eye for details of class and manners, the ardent reading of domestic lives.”—The New York Times, about Object Lessons
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-03
A photographer retreats to a rustic cottage, where she confronts aging and flagging career prospects. Rebecca Winter is known for her Kitchen Counter series, black-and-white photographs capturing domestic minutia, taken as her marriage to a philandering Englishman is foundering on the shoals of mistaken assumptions. But, as her laconic and un-nurturing agent, TG, never fails to remind her, what has she done lately? Her photo royalties are in precipitous decline. Divorced, living in a high-priced Manhattan apartment, Rebecca, 60, finds herself unmoored. Her filmmaker son, Ben, still requires checks from Mom. Her mother, Bebe, is in the Jewish Home for the Aged and Infirm, where she spends her days playing piano pieces on any available surface, except an actual piano. Since the collapse of the family business, Rebecca has supported both her parents and now pays Bebe's nursing home bills. She figures that it will be cheaper to sublet her apartment and rent a ramshackle woodland cabin upstate than to continue to ape the NYC lifestyle of her formerly successful self. She meets the usual eccentrics who people so many fictional small towns, although in Quindlen's hands, these archetypes are convincingly corporeal. Sarah runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, not exactly to the taste of most locals. Until Rebecca came to town, Sarah's only regular was Tad, ex–boy soprano, now working clown. Sarah's ne'er-do-well husband, Kevin, sells Rebecca subpar firewood and is admonished by Jim, an upstanding local hero. After helping Rebecca remove a marauding raccoon, Jim helps her find work photographing wild birds. Like Rebecca, Jim is divorced and has onerous family responsibilities, in his case, his bipolar sister who requires constant surveillance. As Rebecca interacts with these townsfolk--and embarks on a new photo series--she begins to understand how provisional her former life--and self--really was. Occasionally profound, always engaging, but marred by a formulaic resolution in which rewards and punishments are meted out according to who ranks highest on the niceness scale.
From the Publisher
“There comes a moment in every novelist’s career when she . . . ventures into new territory, breaking free into a marriage of tone and style, of plot and characterization, that’s utterly her own. Anna Quindlen’s marvelous romantic comedy of manners is just such a book. . . . Taken as a whole, Quindlen’s writings represent a generous and moving interrogation of women’s experience across the lines of class and race. . . . [Still Life with Bread Crumbs] proves all the more moving because of its light, sophisticated humor. Quindlen’s least overtly political novel, it packs perhaps the most serious punch. . . . Quindlen has delivered a novel that will have a staying power all its own.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR

“[The protagonist’s] photographs are celebrated for turning the ‘minutiae of women’s lives into unforgettable images,’ and Quindlen does the same here with her enveloping, sure-handed storytelling.”People

“Charming . . . a hot cup of tea of a story, smooth and comforting about the vulnerabilities of growing older . . . a pleasure.”USA Today
 
“[A] wise tale about second chances, starting over, and going after what is most important in life.”—Minneapolis StarTribune

“Quindlen has made a home at the top of the bestsellers lists with novels that capture the grace and frailty of everyday life, and her latest work is sure to take her there again. With spare, elegant prose, she crafts a poignant glimpse into the inner life of an aging woman who discovers that reality contains much more color than her own celebrated black-and-white images.”Library Journal

“Quindlen has always excelled at capturing telling details in a story, and she does so again in this quiet, powerful novel, showing the charged emotions that teem beneath the surface of daily life.”Publishers Weekly

“A Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and star in the pantheon of domestic fiction (Every Last One, 2010), Quindlen presents instantly recognizable characters who may be appealingly warm and nonthreatening, but that only serves to drive home her potent message that it’s never too late to embrace life’s second chances.”Booklist

“Profound . . . engaging.”Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
11/01/2013
Formerly a world-famous photographer, Rebecca Winter is past her prime and out of her element. Her photographs are yesterday's news, her family has fallen apart, and her bank balance is inching toward negative numbers. When she can no longer afford her luxurious Manhattan apartment, Rebecca sublets and moves to a small cabin in the middle of nowhere, on a road that has no name. Away from the noise and clatter of the city, she finds peace in a quiet country life, inspiration in the form of mysterious shrines she discovers hidden deep in the woods, and unexpected love with a husky roofer 30 years her junior. VERDICT Pulitzer Prize winner Quindlen has made a home at the top of the best sellers lists with novels that capture the grace and frailty of everyday life (Object Lessons; Blessings), and her latest work is sure to take her there again. With spare, elegant prose, she crafts a poignant glimpse into the inner life of an aging woman who discovers that reality contains much more color than her own celebrated black-and-white images. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/13.]—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400065752
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,484
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear. She is the author of seven novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, and Still Life with Bread Crumbs.

Biography

Anna Quindlen could have settled onto a nice, lofty career plateau in the early 1990s, when she had won a Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times column; but she took an unconventional turn, and achieved a richer result.

Quindlen, the third woman to hold a place among the Times' Op-Ed columnists, had already published two successful collections of her work when she decided to leave the paper in 1995. But it was the two novels she had produced that led her to seek a future beyond her column.

Quindlen had a warm, if not entirely uncritical, reception as a novelist. Her first book, Object Lessons, focused on an Irish American family in suburban New York in the 1960s. It was a bestseller and a Times Notable Book of 1991, but was also criticized for not being as engaging as it could have been. One True Thing, Quindlen's exploration of an ambitious daughter's journey home to take care of her terminally ill mother, was stronger still—a heartbreaker that was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. But Quindlen's fiction clearly benefited from her decision to leave the Times. Three years after that controversial departure, she earned her best reviews yet with Black and Blue, a chronicle of escape from domestic abuse.

Quindlen's novels are thoughtful explorations centering on women who may not start out strong, but who ultimately find some core within themselves as a result of what happens in the story. Her nonfiction meditations—particularly A Short Guide to a Happy Life and her collection of "Life in the 30s" columns, Living Out Loud—often encourage this same transition, urging others to look within themselves and not get caught up in what society would plan for them. It's an approach Quindlen herself has obviously had success with.

Good To Know

To those who expressed surprise at Quindlen's apparent switch from columnist to novelist, the author points out that her first love was always fiction. She told fans in a Barnes & Noble.com chat, "I really only went into the newspaper business to support my fiction habit, but then discovered, first of all, that I loved reporting for its own sake and, second, that journalism would be invaluable experience for writing novels."

Quindlen joined Newsweek as a columnist in 1999. She began her career at the New York Post in 1974, jumping to the New York Times in 1977.

Quindlen's prowess as a columnist and prescriber of advice has made her a popular pick for commencement addresses, a sideline that ultimately inspired her 2000 title A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Quindlen's message tends to be a combination of stopping to smell the flowers and being true to yourself. Quindlen told students at Mount Holyoke in 1999, "Begin to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience. Listen to that small voice from inside you, that tells you to go another way. George Eliot wrote, 'It is never too late to be what you might have been.' It is never too early, either. And it will make all the difference in the world."

Studying fiction at Barnard with the literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick, Quindlen's senior thesis was a collection of stories, one of which she sold to Seventeen magazine.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 8, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1974
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 78 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(20)

3 Star

(14)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 78 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    Beautifully written story

    It made me think of life as possibilities, with both beginnings and endings as never black or white. It was well written and entertaining and I found meaning, true to life, on every page. Brilliant!

    19 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 7, 2014

    I rarely rate the books I am reading or have read.  I make this

    I rarely rate the books I am reading or have read.  I make this an exception.  I found the writing to be beautiful...at times like poetry.  The last time i read a book a second time, it was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was 12.  This book I will read again...Thank you, Anna...

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    Anna Quindlen is a gifted author.  She understands life and I fi

    Anna Quindlen is a gifted author.  She understands life and I find her writing inspirational.  The writing is so well crafted  and both  meaningful and a fun read.  She just makes you feel better. I will be reading this book many times.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    So , I agree with Amanda. Why did Jim kill the raccoon? This b

    So , I agree with Amanda.
    Why did Jim kill the raccoon? This book is overrated. It is a lame story with some self-absorbed people who are insensitive to others. Really, how did this book get to be so popular?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2014

    at 60 life sometimes slows down....gets quiet...while internally

    at 60 life sometimes slows down....gets quiet...while internally there is a constant movement of purpose...of upheaval...a change that becomes necessary...persistent in thought...not physically hurried, but mentally and emotionally looking ahead...as far as you can......for as long as you can live...sometimes with fear, dread, question, concern.....while others around you become smaller, sometimes disappearing..leaving, dying...and leaving behind some hope....some thing that gathers you up and propels you...into the rest of your life.....good for rebecca...for jim...for benji, for sarah, for tad.....for me and for you

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2014

    Enjoyable book

    I enjoyed this story and Anna Quindlen's style of writing. It was a very enjoyable ready.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2014

    Excellent read

    I liked this book a lot - There are so many possibilities in life and this novel by Ms. Quindlen underlines this in a beautifully written way.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2014

    Happy Endings

    Written artistically. It is rare to read a book where the narrative style matches the creativity of the characters. Would have given 5 stars if Quindlen had not contrived to let everyone overcome adversity and live "happily ever after".

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2014

    A good read

    I was a little concerned when I first read some reviews on this book; but bought it anyway. The book takes off a little slow, it does jump back and forth, however keep reading it gets better as it goes, and besides you really want to find out how it all comes out in the end. I would recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2014

    As with everything else Ms. Quindlen does, the book is well writ

    As with everything else Ms. Quindlen does, the book is well written and plotted.   Am I alone in being tired of novels
    portraying a woman (usually one who is outwardly successful) finding in her sixth or
    seventh decade that her life has  lacked meaning?  That the simple things, usually found in some
    rural setting, are the most important?
    Frankly, I don't see much wrong with the life Rebecca led prior to exiling herself in East of Nowheresville.  
    It seems she has lived her entire life (one, it appears, she freely chose) without being happy.  IMO, authenticity 
    can live anywhere.   I'm really getting tired of being told through fiction that the only reality that matters is
    in someplace back of beyond, with people who live "authentic" lives. What is so inauthentic about living in a city?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Very good book would recommended it to anyone. Would read more of her books

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2014

    A wonderful, well-written story

    As usual, Anna Quindlen's use of the English language and imagery is beautiful. Her understated development of Rebecca's story is both poignant and amusing. It is a book to be savored.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    Boring

    Not worth your tim

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    excellent as Quindlen always is

    well written

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2014

    Excellent

    Love the epiphanies

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

    Still Life with Bread Crumbs Very poorly Written

    I couldn't get past thde first three chapters. I really didn't think it deserved one star but I felt I needed to place a rating down
    Kloe Oregon

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2014

    3 1/2 Stars - Different subject matter - refreshing.

    I have never yet been dissatisfied with Anna Quindlen's books. This one is about mid-life dissatisfaction, problems with elderly parents, work issues, life in general.

    The star of the book is a photographic artist who changes her life by moving to a small house away from New York. It leads us and her through a sort of "coming of age, senior version" and was very enjoyable to me.

    I tend to stick with an author whose books I have enjoyed in the past, and Ms. Quindlen is one of my favorites. This book did not disappoint in the least.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 1, 2014

    I really enjoy this author and her writing style. That said, th

    I really enjoy this author and her writing style. That said, this book was a little less dramatic than what I have read of hers in the past. But she has a way with the pen and can draw you into the characters and story of their lives like they are your dear relatives before you have finished the first chapter. Perhaps wrapped up a bit too neat and tidy with a bow at the end, but still a pleasing read nonetheless.

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  • Posted June 27, 2014

    A great read!

    I read everything by Anna Quindlen. Her stories are very interesting. I enjoyed this one very much.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    Great summer read

    As always, Anna Quindlan is a fabulous story teller. Her characters are vivid and are always like people we know. It's a quick read, enjoyable, but also quite predictable. It's like a fast food restaurant: tasty and easy but nothing memorable. Didn't challenge me to think at all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 78 Customer Reviews

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