This rich novel from Chamberlain (
The Silent Sister) tracks artists whose lives intertwine after a mural is commissioned for a small town. In 1939, 22-year-old New Jersey artist Anna Dale is in Edenton, N.C., having won a federal art contest and being chosen to paint a mural for Edenton’s post office. The completed piece, however, is mysteriously never installed. In 2018, another 22-year-old artist, Morgan Christopher, is connected to the mural. Morgan has served a year in a North Carolina prison for a felony DUI, but she’s released by a powerful private lawyer in order to restore Anna’s damaged mural, which has been in storage. An artist and philanthropist, Jesse Jameson Williams, has died, and in his will, his adult daughter, Lisa, is instructed to ensure that Morgan restore the painting. Morgan doesn’t understand how Williams knew of her, though she had admired his work for years. Single father Oliver Jones, another recipient of Williams’s generosity and curator of Williams’s gallery, uses his training in restoration to help Morgan. She’s grateful for his help, and an attraction develops between them. Anna and Morgan’s passion for their craft serves as an enticing connection as they work on the same project decades apart. Chamberlain’s depictions of creative beauty and perseverance across time and in the face of inevitable obstacles will keep readers turning the pages. Agent: Susan Ginsberg, Writers House. (Jan.)
Praise for Diane Chamberlain:
"With a little tension and a lot of heart,
The Dream Daughter will delight Chamberlain's fans and hook new readers." Booklist
"Chamberlain writes with supernatural gifts...fate, destiny, chance and hope combine for a heady and breathless wonder of a read." Pam Jenoff, author of
The Orphan's Tale
"Can a story be both mind-bending and heartfelt? In Diane Chamberlain’s hands, it can.
The Dream Daughterwill hold readers in anxious suspense until the last satisfying page." Therese Fowler, author of Z
The Silent Sister) latest novel follows 22-year-old Morgan Christopher, an art student serving time for a bad choice that left another woman paralyzed. When a lawyer offers her an early release, she knows she can't say no despite the contingency: to restore a 70-year-old mural that is shrouded in mystery in the small town of Edenton, NC. If she completes the task, she earns not only her freedom but also a $50,000 payment from the estate of the late Jesse Jameson Williams, an artist with a penchant for rescuing troubled youth. The artist behind the mural, Anna Dale, disappeared in 1940 and was presumed dead by suicide. While Morgan was an art student before her incarceration, she has zero restoration experience and must learn every step of the way while simultaneously unraveling the dark secrets of the small town. VERDICT Chamberlain's story is a little slow at the start but picks up and becomes a quick and engaging read. Vaguely reminiscent of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, this is a good fit for mystery lovers, and the crossover among art, history, and mental health is multifaceted and intriguing. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.] —Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib.
A tale of two artists, living 78 years apart in a small Southern town, and the third artist who links them.
The fates of two white painters in Edenton, North Carolina, intertwine with the legacy of a third, that of Jesse Jameson Williams, a prominent African American artist with Edenton roots. In 2018, the recently deceased Jesse has left a very unusual will. In life, Jesse paid his success forward by helping underdog artists. Morgan Christopher, the last, posthumous recipient of Jesse's largesse, can't imagine why he chose her, a complete stranger who is doing time for an alcohol-related crash that left another driver paralyzed. Released on an early parole engineered by Jesse's daughter, Lisa, Morgan will receive $50,000 to restore a mural painted by one Anna Dale in 1940 in time for a gallery opening on Aug. 5, 2018. If Morgan misses this deadline, not only is her deal off, but Lisa will, due to a puzzling, thinly motivated condition of Jesse's will, lose her childhood home. In an alternating narrative, Anna, winner of a U.S. Treasury Department competition, has been sent from her native New Jersey to paint a mural for the Edenton post office. Anna has zero familiarity with the South, particularly with Jim Crow. She recognizes Jesse's exceptional talent and mentors him, to the ire of Edenton's white establishment. Martin Drapple, a local portraitist rejected in the competition, is at first a good sport, when he's sober, until, somewhat too suddenly, he's neither. Issues of addiction and mental illness are foremost in both past and present. Anna's late mother had manic episodes. Morgan's estranged parents are unrepentant boozers. And Anna's mural of civic pride is decidedly strange. One of the strengths here is the creditable depiction of the painter's process, in Anna's case, and the restorer's art, in Morgan's. Despite the fraught circumstances challenging all three painters, conflict is lacking. The 1940 racial tensions are unrealistically mild, and Jesse's testamentary testiness is not mined for its full stakes-raising potential.
An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery.
Narrator Susan Bennett offers a moving performance of this multilayered story of two women whose lives are affected by a New Deal art mural. In 1940, Anna, a young artist from New Jersey, faces hostility from the townspeople in Edenton, North Carolina, when she is hired to paint the post office mural. In 2018, Morgan, who is just out of prison, uncovers disturbing details and sinister events while restoring the long missing, now decaying mural. Portraying Morgan, Bennett’s voice has a tone of artistic sensitivity. When Anna’s life spirals out of control, she adds feverish intensity. For the locals, Bennett superbly delivers a languid Southern drawl. Overall, Bennett adds an exciting dimension to a gripping story of racism, madness, murder, and even romance. J.E.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2021 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
DECEMBER 2019 - AudioFile