Clara Brodeur has spent her entire adult life pulling herself away from her famous mother, the renowned and controversial photographer Ruth Dunne, whose towering reputation rests on the unsettling nude portraits she took of her young daughter. At age eighteen, sick of her notoriety as “the girl in the pictures,” Clara fled New York City, settling and making her own family in small-town Maine. But years later, when Ruth reaches out from her deathbed, Clara suddenly finds herself drawn back to the past she thought she had escaped. From the beloved author of Family History and Slow Motion, a spellbinding novel that asks: How do we forgive those who failed to protect us?
Clara, the protagonist of Shapiro's uneven fifth novel (after Family History), is the youngest daughter and muse of Ruth Dunne, a famous Manhattan photographer who made her name shooting Sally Mann style (read: nude and provocative) photos of a young Clara. Unable to bear the humiliation of being "the girl in those pictures," Clara runs away from home at 18. Fourteen years later and still estranged from her mother, Clara's living in Maine with her husband and daughter when her older sister calls and tells her Ruth is in failing health. Clara travels back to Manhattan, where she comes to terms with her family and herself. Though Clara's frequent bemoaning of her emotional scars tries the reader's patience, Shapiro's sharp depictions of love and shame go a long way toward putting the self-pity into relief. It's unfortunate that Ruth fails to comes across as anything more than a narcissistic artist, but the novel offers some fine insights into marriage, the making of art and the often difficult mother-daughter dynamic.
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I had heard alot of mixed reviews about this book. After reading it though I enjoyed the aspects of photography I talked about, yes it is about a taboo subject but if you look past that you will see a story of strength and determination to overcome a great tragedy.