Monday, January 7, 2008
Paint It Black
Over the weekend, I read Paint It Black by Janet Fitch. Those of you with memories better than mine (or fast Google fingers) will remember her as the author of White Oleander. No, she hasn't written anything between White Oleander and now. It doesn't matter. Paint It Black is excellent. It tells the story of Josie, a high school dropout turned art model, whose rich boy dilettante painter boyfriend has just committed suicide. Josie is devastated and lost and gets embroiled in a pretty inadvisable, very complicated relationship with her boyfriend's unstable, autocratic mother. Paint It Black is just as dark and complicated as White Oleander, with slightly more likable characters. The mother figure is untrustworthy, and conniving, and hurting and needy and trying to reach out for someone to help her all the while striking at the one person who truly understands her loss. She's more sympathetic than Ingrid (the mother from White Oleander), but then, she's not Josie's mother. Would she have been sympathetic if we were viewing her from Michael's perspective (the son who commits suicide)? Much of Michael's childhood is mysterious, and remains so, not only because he has lied to Josie about it, but because his mother and father have rewritten history to suit their own needs. In the end, Josie must find her own way to deal with the Michael she knew, the truth and the lies, and to go on living without him. There are no easy answers here, not for any of the characters, or for the readers, but a very realistic look into the pain of loss and the diffculty of putting your life back together when you've lost someone central. Dark, haunting and real.