A personal misfortune set against a backdrop of global crisis.
In 1917, the United States was on the brink of entering World War I, and art was moving away from Impressionism toward a more modern view. Meanwhile, Lily Canning, the daughter of a well-to-do family and an artist on the verge of fame, seems to have everything going for her–good looks, a loving family, wealth and talent. Despite appearances, however, Lily is supremely unhappy, a fact not unnoticed by her friends and family. Nevertheless, when her widowed mother receives a call revealing that Lily has jumped into the Hudson River and died, everyone is shocked. She had seemed happier since she left her husband and was anticipating her first art opening at a New York gallery. Suicide seems unfathomable. As her loved ones speculate about Lily’s last hours, Marchetta slowly reveals the heroine in layers through the narration of those closest to her, such as her best friend, her cousins and her estranged husband. Each character’s memories of Lily are interrupted by daily minutia and woven together with feelings about their own lives, as well as fears about the impending war and the morality of Lily’s last act, mirroring the same realistic style in which Lily painted. Eventually, Lily herself reveals the truth behind her death. There is nothing particularly surprising about the ending and no fancy plot devices. Marchetta’s prose is elegant in its simplicity, its rhythm gently carrying the reader forward like the Hudson River that figures so prominently throughout the story.
An uncomplicated but intriguing read portraying the interconnectedness of people, the effects of grief and depression and the power of hope.