“Rebecca Winter” remains a household name, thanks to the iconic photograph “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” that catapulted her art career into the public eye. But Rebecca Winter, the person, has changed significantly in the decades since she captured that domestic image of her kitchen counter after her husband and son retired for the evening. She’s no longer married, for one. And it’s been so long since she made a significant sale that she can no longer afford the upscale Manhattan apartment that contains the kitchen immortalized in that famous picture.
As a result, the 60-year-old Rebecca feels adrift when she sublets her home and moves into a rented cottage in rural New York. Each time a royalty check hits her bank account, the couple-hundred-dollar deposit leaves her feeling momentarily rich. Some other people in the small town are familiar with “Still Life” and consider Rebecca something of a celebrity, but she is often left to her own thoughts. That solitude gives Rebecca plenty of time to figure out whether her camera is still the best way to share what she sees with the world—and to determine who she is outside of the context of high-end art galleries and New York City.
In Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen deconstructs the typical form of a novel. Chapters toggle between Rebecca’s present and the formative moments that brought her here, with each chapter title lending insight into the path Rebecca walks. The result is refreshing pacing; the story doesn’t unfold in linear fashion, but in bits and pieces at a time.
Still Life is a journey of self-exploration, of getting to know who you are rather than who others expect you to be. It’s a meditation on art, age and commercialism wrapped up in a delightful story—perhaps the best-selling author’s finest novel yet.
Read our interview with Anna Quindlen about this book.