Sawyer successfully explores the meaning of family in this multigenerational saga set in the world of high-end art.
The story’s flawed protagonist is Lance Henry Withers, an aged billionaire art collector who’s terminally ill. Withers has built many walls around himself to protect his many secrets, which has left him feeling isolated and lonely. All he really has is his pre-eminent art collection, as he explains: “I knew nothing about art, or money, or their power in the world, but I learned everything I could and now I’m the arbiter of twentieth-century art.” Dottie Lee Davis, a visiting nurse, comes into his palatial Manhattan home—and, eventually, into his heart. She breaks through the curmudgeonly senior’s tough exterior with her tales of the Bible and of her extended Virginia family and instills in him the hope he’s been missing. Dottie often preaches to her charge: “[You] don’t need a ten-dollar word like ‘provenance…when a dollar word like history will do. History works just fine, for everyone and everything. Art and people all got history.” Sawyer artfully paints Withers’ and Dottie’s complicated family histories in a series of flashbacks throughout the book, creating a colorful cast of characters. However, these two sides of the story don’t always interact particularly well, and the overall plot is somewhat predictable. Withers has led an exciting life, however, and Sawyer effectively illustrates how his regrettable choices have resulted in his being alone: “I kept everyone at bay, even the one woman I should have loved enough to sacrifice everything for.” Ultimately, the plot ties everything up too neatly, but many readers will likely enjoy the journey.
An often memorable tale of love, loss and redemption.