This is a beautiful story following the lives of two woman linked through art, history, and personal mysteries. The story moves between antebellum Virginia and a modern-day New York. The truth of one, with lead to the truth of the other. It is full of heartbreak and loss, but don’t be discouraged, the truth leads to justice.
Josephine Bell is a slave on a failing tobacco farm in 1852’s Virginia, she is a house girl and nurse to her Mistress Lu Anne Bell, an artist. Josephine is also an artist, and our story begins on the day she has decided to run. Her chapters follow her through her day as she prepares to run, and the information her Mistress finally tells her after 4 years of secrecy.
Carolina “Lina” Sparrow is a first-year associate at an elite law firm in 2004’s New York. She is ambitious and talented and on the “Partnership tract.” She is given an assignment to find a “perfect plaintiff” in a historic lawsuit regarding reparations for the descendants of American Slaves. It is while on this search, that Lina discovers Josephine. Currently all of her artwork is attributed to Lu Anne, but there is some suspicion in the art world that Josephine was the true artist. Lina’s chapters follow her through her search for the descendants of Josephine and the truth of who was the real artist of the Bell Paintings.
This was a short book, about 370 page in paper back, but electronically only about 150 (font size does make a difference I think). I read this book in two evenings, I could not put this book down and the writing was so easy to read. I loved Conklin’s style, it was smooth and idiomatic. Conklin did a wonderful job of describing both Virginia and New York, with just enough details to guide my imagination, but not so many the I had no creative freedom. The story line flows, and like I said I kept coming back and couldn’t put down. I really liked Lina, I was able to relate to her and her drive and need to know the truth, not just for her job, but for her own peace of mind. The need for the truth, whether good or bad, the need is what drives Lina.
I didn’t like the ending, I don’t want to go into too many details because of spoilers, but really wanted things to turn out differently for Josephine, although I was pretty happy about how things went for Lina. The fact that things turned out the way they did, contributed to the realism of the novel. Things are not always unicorns and rainbows, and not every story can have a happy ending, although I can still wish for it.
I would definitely recommend this book as a light read, maybe for a weekend trip something light to keep you entertained and interested, but not so long that you couldn’t finish it on your days off.