Anna Quindlen’s “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” is the kind of book you cuddle up with on a rainy day. There’s not a lot of drama, no murders, no battles—just a nice, comforting story. This book is about a once-famous New York City photographer named Rebecca Winter, who received her fame after taking a picture of a messy kitchen counter and naming it, you guessed it, “Still Life with Bread Crumbs.” The picture was a hit. Universities hung it in hallways, art collectors bought more than one copy and so on and so forth until one day the fame began to fade, and the only place Rebecca could find the picture was in a small, upstate, New York coffee shop.
To escape her terrible ex-husband and his new, young wife and to find inspiration in order to boost her quickly dwindling bank account, Rebecca leaves the city and moves into a run-down cottage. It is there that she meets Sarah, the owner of Tea for Two (or more)—the coffee shop holding her painting—Tad, an aspiring opera singer; and Jim Bates, a roofer, handyman, snow remover and future lover. Rebecca has a lot of time on her hands, which she fills up by taking long hikes in the woods with her new friend and pet named Dog and thinking, just thinking: “People froze you in place, Rebecca sometimes thought, trudging through the woods. More important, you froze yourself, often into a person in whom you truly had no interest. So you had a choice: you could continue a masquerade, or you could give up on it.” As Dog sniffs around, Rebecca takes photos of little white crosses randomly placed in the woods—one cross is accompanied by a photo of a woman and a young girl, one has a blue ribbon and another has a trophy. Rebecca has no idea why the crosses are there, and she never asks, but toward the end of the novel it becomes apparent that it has something to do with Jim. Where the crosses come from is the only thing the book leaves unclear until the end, so I will leave it alone. I think the reason I enjoyed this book the most is because the town Rebecca moves to reminded me a lot of where I am from, but I think even someone who is from the city will enjoy the quiet solitude the book portrays, giving the reader time to not only follow Rebecca’s thoughts and changes, but also to work on oneself and to really think about life. I was surprised to find that I liked this book, since Rebecca is not the young protagonist I am used to, yet I think the character shows how similar all women are, no matter the age. Like I said before, this book is not exciting, and you are probably more likely to see your mother or grandmother’s book club reading it than the girl sitting next to you in class, unless that girl is me. However, Quindlen has a very professional, unique writing style that turns a basic story into a little something more. If you ever have a day just to lie around, then I suggest reading this book just to slow the pace of life for a change.