Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

Paint It Black by Janet Fitch (unabridged audiobook read by Jen Taylor): The story opens with Josie Tyrell waiting for her artist boyfriend Michael, who left a week before to hole up in his mother’s empty house and work on a painting. Just as she is beginning to wonder if he’d run off with another woman, the coroner calls. Michael was not at his mother’s house, not working on a painting at all. In reality, he had driven to a motel and shot himself. From then on out it is nonstop grief. This is a book I’m not sure I would have enjoyed on paper, but Taylor’s narration is absolutely brilliant. She captures the confusion, anger, and despair of Josie and Michael’s mother Meredith, as well as the mystery of Michael himself (in flashbacks), without ever sounding melodramatic or tiresome. Without her touch, I’m not sure I would have been able to stand such endless misery. But it’s only the subject matter that would be difficult to read. Fitch, as always, uses language like a paintbrush. The writing is simply beautiful, even when describing ugly things. Her unabashed love for poetry and art is present again here, as it was in White Oleander; likewise with the independent daughter/powerful mother dynamic. But the story is far from a repeat. And while I enjoyed it, I would have appreciated a little more plot – this was more of a slice-of-life story about Josie going through the stages of grief than a series of interelated events. I also wish the ending had been a touch more conclusive, but in a way the openness gave it more of a feeling of real life, where nothing ever ends. Quibbles aside, I was really touched by this book. Josie and Michael and Meredith and everyone were like real people whose lives I wanted to know more about. I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Fitch.

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