See What I See, by Gloria Whelan, 2011, Book Review

what i seeGloria Whelan has reconfirmed herself as one of my favorite authors with her latest book, See What I See. We share a state, and the passion with which she paints northern Michigan’s gorgeous scenery reflects my own love of “up north.” But it is her mastery of story and language that makes her one of the greats.

Kate has grown up without her father. He’s been too busy becoming a famous artist to pay her any mind. The only thing she ever received from him was a talent for art. She needs to paint as she needs to breath. So she earns a scholarship to an art school in Detroit, where her father lives, and shows up on his doorstep. You could say he isn’t pleased.

“What are you doing here? How did you find me? This is no time for a family reunion. I’m getting ready for a show and I need to be left alone.”

Yet Kate can see he isn’t well, and she digs up some stubbornness of her own. After finding a medical record indicating just how ill he is, Kate challenges him, “If you don’t let me stay, I’ll tell Mom and the newspapers and your gallery how sick you are. You won’t have your show.”

So Kate stays and adores art school. But her father weakens and grows more irritable. This will be his last show, and he works desperately to redeem his professional reputation. Kate is faced with some hard choices. Quit school and care for a man who never cared for her? One who makes it plain daily that he disdains her? Or pursue her own career and turn her back as he turned his on her so many years ago.

Emotional but not sticky-sweet, thoughtful and beautifully-rendered, See What I See is Gloria Whelan at her best. And that, I might add, is phenomenal.

 

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