Paint it Black

By Janet Fitch

Fitch follows her bestselling debut, White Oleander, by revisiting the insidious effects of a powerful, narcissistic mother on an only child. Michael Faraday is a Harvard dropout who paints in the L.A. art world of 1981; his suicide happens a few pages in, and sets the stage for a Fitch's masterful shifts in time and perspective. Josie Tyrell, an artist's model and denizen of the punk rock, had an intense relationship with Michael, but never managed to free him from his mother, renowned concert pianist Meredith Loewy, who moves in a bleak, loveless world of wealth and privilege. Yet their very different loves for Michael bring about a surprising alliance between the imperious Meredith and Josie, a white trash escapee whose inborn grace, style and sense of self sustain her—along with art, music and alcohol. The two find unexpected comfort in each other's shared loss, allowing Fitch to contrast the inner and outer resources of women whose lives couldn't be more different, and to flash back deeply into their histories. Fitch excels at painting a negative personality with sure-handed depth and fairness, and her prose penetrates the inner lives of the two with immediacy and bite. In Josie, she has created an indomitable young woman whose pluck and growing self-awareness beautifully offset Meredith's emptiness. Their relationship transforms a big cliché—the artist's suicide—into a page-turning psychodrama.

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