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Still Life with Bread Crumbs

Cover of Still Life with Bread Crumbs

Still Life with Bread Crumbs

A Novel
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life


Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.

"There comes a moment in every novelist's career when she . . . ventures into new territory, breaking free into a marriage of tone and style, of plot and characterization, that's utterly her own. Anna Quindlen's marvelous romantic comedy of manners is just such a book. . . . Taken as a whole, Quindlen's writings represent a generous and moving interrogation of women's experience across the lines of class and race. [Still Life with Bread Crumbs] proves all the more moving because of its light, sophisticated humor. Quindlen's least overtly political novel, it packs perhaps the most serious punch. . . . Quindlen has delivered a novel that will have staying power all its own."--The New York Times Book Review

"[A] wise tale about second chances, starting over, and going after what is most important in life."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Quindlen's astute observations . . . are the sorts of details every writer and reader lives for."--Chicago Tribune

"[Anna] Quindlen's seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation."--NPR

"Enchanting . . . [The protagonist's] photographs are celebrated for turning the 'minutiae of women's lives into unforgettable images,' and Quindlen does the same here with her enveloping, sure-handed storytelling."--People

"Charming . . . a hot cup of tea of a story, smooth and comforting about the vulnerabilities of growing older . . . a pleasure."--USA Today

"With spare, elegant prose, [Quindlen] crafts a poignant glimpse into the inner life of an aging woman who discovers that reality contains much more color than her own celebrated black-and-white images."--Library Journal

"Quindlen has always excelled at capturing telling details in a story, and she does so again in this quiet, powerful novel, showing the charged emotions that teem beneath the surface of daily life."--Publishers Weekly

"Quindlen presents instantly recognizable characters who may be appealingly warm and nonthreatening, but that only serves to drive home her potent message that it's never too late to embrace life's second chances."--Booklist

"Profound . . . engaging."--Kirkus Reviews

From the Trade Paperback edition.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life


Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.

"There comes a moment in every novelist's career when she . . . ventures into new territory, breaking free into a marriage of tone and style, of plot and characterization, that's utterly her own. Anna Quindlen's marvelous romantic comedy of manners is just such a book. . . . Taken as a whole, Quindlen's writings represent a generous and moving interrogation of women's experience across the lines of class and race. [Still Life with Bread Crumbs] proves all the more moving because of its light, sophisticated humor. Quindlen's least overtly political novel, it packs perhaps the most serious punch. . . . Quindlen has delivered a novel that will have staying power all its own."--The New York Times Book Review

"[A] wise tale about second chances, starting over, and going after what is most important in life."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Quindlen's astute observations . . . are the sorts of details every writer and reader lives for."--Chicago Tribune

"[Anna] Quindlen's seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation."--NPR

"Enchanting . . . [The protagonist's] photographs are celebrated for turning the 'minutiae of women's lives into unforgettable images,' and Quindlen does the same here with her enveloping, sure-handed storytelling."--People

"Charming . . . a hot cup of tea of a story, smooth and comforting about the vulnerabilities of growing older . . . a pleasure."--USA Today

"With spare, elegant prose, [Quindlen] crafts a poignant glimpse into the inner life of an aging woman who discovers that reality contains much more color than her own celebrated black-and-white images."--Library Journal

"Quindlen has always excelled at capturing telling details in a story, and she does so again in this quiet, powerful novel, showing the charged emotions that teem beneath the surface of daily life."--Publishers Weekly

"Quindlen presents instantly recognizable characters who may be appealingly warm and nonthreatening, but that only serves to drive home her potent message that it's never too late to embrace life's second chances."--Booklist

"Profound . . . engaging."--Kirkus Reviews

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • Chapter One

    Quindlen / STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS

    No Outlets

    A few minutes after two in the morning Rebecca Winter woke to the sound of a gunshot and sat up in bed.

    Well, to be completely accurate, she had no idea what time it was. When she had moved into the ramshackle cottage in a hollow halfway up the mountain, it had taken her two days to realize that there was a worrisome soft spot in the kitchen floor, a loose step out to the backyard, and not one electrical outlet in the entire bedroom. She stood, turning in a circle, her old alarm clock in her hand trailing its useless tail of a cord, as though, like some magic spell, a few rotations and some muttered curses would lead to a place to plug it in. Like much of what constituted Rebecca's life at that moment, the clock had been with her far past the time when it was current or useful.

    Later she would wonder why she had never owned one of those glow-in-the-dark battery-operated digital clocks, the ones available so cheaply at the Walmart squatting aggressively just off the highway a half hour north of town. But that was later.

    As for the gunshot: Rebecca Winter had no idea what a gunshot actually sounded like. She had grown up almost entirely in New York City, on the west side of Manhattan, with vacations on the shores of Long Island and the occasional foray to Provence or Tuscany. These were the usual vacations of the people she knew. Everyone always talked about how marvelous those places were, how beautiful the beaches, how splendid the vineyards. Marvelous, they said, rolling the word around in their mouths the way her husband, Peter, did with that first tasting of wine, pretending he knew more about it than he did, occasionally sending a bottle back to make a point.

    But for her family, which she had felt when she was a child hardly deserved the name, being composed of only a father, a mother, and a single child, the trips were never pleasant. Her parents were deeply suspicious of anything that smacked of nature; her mother was almost pathologically afraid of bugs, was always calling down to the doorman to deal with spiders or recalcitrant bees sneaking in from the park outside. Her father had various pollen allergies and from March until October carried an enormous handkerchief, like a white flag of surrender for his sinuses.

    Certainly it did happen from time to time that there would be a noise on Central Park West or Riverside Drive or Broadway, and someone might say, Was that a gunshot? This happened especially during that period after Rebecca graduated from college, when it was agreed by people who would never dream of living elsewhere that the city, dangerous and dirty, was becoming unlivable. It was always eventually decided that the gunshot was a car backfire, or a bottle being smashed, or a door slamming to the building's basement, where the trash was stored.

    This was always, without fail, true.

    Nevertheless Rebecca was almost certain that it was a gunshot that had awakened her now as she lay stiffly in the bed in the room without outlets. She tried to look at her watch, but it was a small flat gold watch, like a superannuated dime, that her parents had given her when she married, as though her marriage was a retirement of some kind. It had the initials R.W.S. on the back, what her mother called her new monogram, although Rebecca had never changed her name. Still, she had great sentimental attachment to the watch, mainly because of her father, who had selected it and had taken an enormous amount of pleasure in giving it to her. "That's a beauty!" he said when she removed it from the mahogany box. "It's not waterproof," her mother added.

    Under the best...

About the Author-
  • Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of seven novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, and Still Life with Bread Crumbs. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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