Growing from a stubbornly individualistic girl to “one of the most important abstract artists in the country,” Georgia O’Keeffe is depicted as a true American pioneer.
The story opens with young narrator “Georgie” making the remarkably self-aware observation: “I did not have in mind just drawing pretty pictures—I was going to be an artist. There was a difference.” What follows is a fictionalized chronicle of her life from 12 to 42 years old, traversing her life from childhood in small-town Wisconsin and Virginia through teachers and art schools in Chicago and New York to adult life in Texas and New Mexico. Periodically, she experiences revelations of art techniques and style, with romantic relationships (none same-sex) manifesting later. Georgia addresses gender inequality of the times, for instance vocalizing how much she hates being known as a “woman artist”—but not racism, despite the white character’s time in the South. Peers and authority figures encourage her to conform to custom, but she refuses, preferring instead to be “provocative” and embracing her “misfit” status. As developed by Meyer, Georgia’s character possesses stalwart self-confidence bordering on hauteur. In part a tour of early-20th-century American landscapes and also part school story and part biography, the narrative sometimes reads like a recitation of facts that at times veers into first-person observations. Meyer reports emotions in an omniscient adult voice, but they remain flat, with little emotional resonance for readers; the stiff style and small type skew this novel’s readership older than its putative middle-grade audience.
This chronicle of uncompromisingly sticking to one’s unique perspective is, alas, also a fairly dull one. (Historical fiction. 11-14)