“Stark and compelling . . . Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.”―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with heart.”―Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
“Rich and compelling . . . Her characters are vividly, achingly real, including the tiny, furry one at the novel’s center.”―Ann Packer, author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier
Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who savors the quotidian pleasures in life until a car accident leaves him severely paralyzed and haunted by the death of his young assistant. Now, Duncan isn’t sure what there is left to live for, when every day has become “a broken series of unsuccessful gestures.”
Duncan and his wife, Laura, find themselves in conflict as Duncan’s will to live falters. Laura grows desperate to help him. An art conservator who has her own relationship to the repair of broken things, Laura brings home a highly trained helper monkey―a tufted capuchin named Ottoline―to assist Duncan with basic tasks. Duncan and Laura fall for this sweet, comical, Nutella-gobbling little creature, and Duncan’s life appears to become more tolerable, fuller, and funnier. Yet the question persists: Is it enough?
Katharine Weber is a masterful observer of humanity, and Still Life with Monkey, full of tenderness and melancholy, explores the conflict between the will to live and the desire to die.
Katharine Weber is the author of five acclaimed novels―True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear―and a memoir, The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities. Objects in Mirror, The Music Lesson, and The Little Women were all named Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review; two of her novels were long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and The Music Lesson has been published in twelve languages. Katharine holds the Thomas Chair in creative writing at Kenyon College.
Weber's brilliant novel (following The Memory of All That) follows married couple Duncan and Laura Wheeler as their lives are altered after a car accident with Duncan at the wheel leaves him a paraplegic and results in the death of his architect prot g . Laura, an art conservator, painstakingly analyzes cracked ceramic antiques and makes damaged classic paintings whole, and now has to contend with a husband who has lost his verve and motivation. Duncan's identical twin, Gordon, has lived with various limitations all his life he is mentally slow and has speech impediments and Duncan has been his caretaker from afar, always making sure he eats, gets washed, and keeps his job at a bookstore. Now Gordon is the one who cares for Duncan, checking in on him to make sure he's doing all right. When Laura learns about trained, dexterous capuchin monkeys who assist paralyzed people, she arranges for one to be brought to their home. As the comical creature touchingly becomes part of the family against the backdrop of Laura's determined optimism and Duncan's depression and humiliation over being forever dependent, the author explores questions about quality of life, the drive to be productive, and sacrifices born from a depth of love. Weber's unsentimental and poignant examination of what does and does not make life worth living is a heartbreaking triumph.