After the death of her Japanese American mother, sixty-four year old Anne Kuroda Duppstaad finds the courage to confront the toxic legacy of her father, a famous artist and cruel narcissist, and begins pursuing her life-long dream to become an artist in her own right.
The Love Ceiling draws readers into the soul of a universal theme for women: the pull between family and creative self-expression. It is the story of a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother, and a journey into creativity.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the publicists touting the book as a "coming of age novel for readers over 50...60...70...80...90...!" I'm in my early 40s and I could see bits of myself in both the main character (64 yr old Annie) and her daughter Cass who is 32. I would definitely change that blurb to include the 30 and 40 somethings as this book really does cover issues facing women in each of those decades as well as the older generations. I've read several other glowing reviews of the book with many of the women even younger than I feeling the same way - "It's For Us Too!"
One of my favorite spots in the book is something that I took to heart:
Ninety year old Martha Jane is setting up her easel and clips a small card to the top. The card is hand lettered, in spidery script:
"Use the talent you possess,
For the forest would be silent
If no birds sang but the best."
She notices Annie watching and explains, "It's like a Bible verse for me. I want to remind myself of this each day before I begin, otherwise, one can lose faith - even at my age. I certainly won't be Grandma Moses, but I can't let that stop me, now can I?"
The author flawlessly weaves such tender and important moments into the story. She introduces us to some lovely characters who we were left wanting more of (such as Martha Jane and their artist-turned mentor Fred). But she also balances this out with the true-to-life, not-so-nice people who populate all of our lives.
The relationship between Annie and her dying mother as well as the relationship with her abusive father really highlight the influences parents can have on their children's adult life. This plays out as well when we start seeing things from daughter Cass's perspective and the relationship she has with her own parents, Annie and Jack. It's interesting and dismaying when both Jack and Cass dismiss Annie's part-time job as something small and frivolous.
The initial idea of the book comes from the author's personal experience with an older aunt who was an accomplished painter. When Ms. Okimoto visited her, expecting to see a bright, lovely studio - she was dismayed to find that her aunt was painting in a dimly-lit basement. The title comes from the main character's weary reply to a question from her husband:
'"There's a glass ceiling for women, Jack," I stared at my painting in the dim light next to the washer and dryer. "And it's made out of the people we love.""
I think so many women will end up doing as I did and reading this book in one day. I became so enamoured of Annie and her story that I only surfaced for drink and restroom breaks and went back to catch up with her immediately. If I were to have to find something negative or possibly less-than-glowing, it would be that I was left wanting more. Of course this would actually seem a positive to me as it shows that the author has woven a fine story that you want to continue being a part of.
There is a reader's guide at the end of the book that I think would be great for book clubs. A lot of different discussions could be sparked by various points in this book. The author has been involved in chats with book clubs across the country and can be contacted via her website.
Read more about the author Jean Davies Okimoto and be sure to check out the other great reviews The Love Ceiling has been receiving on the Jean Davies Okimoto’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Thank you so much to Endicott & Hugh Books, Jean Davies Okimoto, Lisa and Jennifer for this great opportunity and lovely book. It has really been an enjoyable experience.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review and received no monetary compensation.