- File Size: 5355 KB
- Print Length: 298 pages
- Publisher: Paul Dry Books (August 21, 2018)
- Publication Date: August 21, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07DFMWW2F
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,680 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Still Life with Monkey Kindle Edition
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"Weber’s unsentimental and poignant examination of what does and does not make life worth living is a heartbreaking triumph."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Katharine Weber’s Still Life With Monkey is a beautifully wrought paean of praise for the ordinary pleasures taken for granted by the able-bodied. In precise and often luminous prose, with intelligence and tenderness, Weber’s latest novel examines the question of what makes a life worth living."―Washington Post
"Weber’s prose is precise, revealing rather than evocative; she seems to be aiming not to show her characters in their best light but rather to illuminate them from all angles, even the least flattering. Befitting the novel’s emphasis on the aesthetic, her style here is painterly: As in Oudry’s composition, attention to detailed realism is everything. Still Life With Monkey is profoundly humane even while it’s asking the most difficult questions.―New York Times Book Review
"Weber's sixth novel is a nuanced investigation of what is left when all of the ways one identifies oneself are wiped out in an instant . . . Beautiful, emotionally resonant storytelling."―Booklist
"The 'still life' in Katharine Weber’s new novel is Duncan Wheeler, a 37-year-old successful Connecticut-based architect who receives life’s worst surprise when a car crash leaves him mostly paralyzed with a C6 spinal cord injury . . . Weber expertly weaves Duncan’s internal conflict throughout the novel, constantly making the reader wonder if he will find the strength to continue living in his new circumstances and carry on with a will to make new legacies. Most importantly, Still Life with Monkey begs the question, 'What would I do in this situation?' It’s a question that lingers long after the book ends."―BookPage
"For Weber fans, this new novel is a cause for celebration and is likely to win her many more admirers."―Amazon's Omnivoracious blog
“STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY is a brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with heart. Pairing poetry with wisdom, this is a story about what it means to live, love, and grow.”―Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
“Katharine Weber goes deep with the extraordinary STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY, a rich and compelling meditation on the question of what makes life worth living. Her characters are vividly, achingly real, including the tiny, furry one at the novel’s center. I kept thinking about all of them long after I’d read the final words of this beautiful book.”―Ann Packer, author of The Dive From Clausen's Pier
“In Katharine Weber’s new novel she takes on one of the most challenging subjects we know―the question of how to face a life we never imagined. She does so with great subtlety, tenderness and intelligence, as well as the beautiful prose we expect from her.”―Roxana Robinson, author of This Is My Daughter
"Among the many brilliances of Katharine Weber’s new novel, is the whole idea of a ‘still life.’ Painters saw unnatural stillness as a contradiction in terms, yet containing a mysterious truth. Here, too, mysterious truth - a car accident, a wheelchair (another contradiction), paralysis, and honest and beautifully-drawn people, stopped in midpassage. To this still life comes the capuchin monkey, the service animal who attends the disconnections of the spine, the spirit, and of the species. STILL LIFE is life still―the theme of this original, remarkable book.”―Roger Rosenblatt, author of Kayak Morning
“STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY is radiantly tender and piercingly sad. Katharine Weber is a magician of a novelist, one who writes about loss and loneliness with such compassion and humor that we feel enchanted as we read.”―Brian Morton, author of Starting Out in the Evening and Florence Gordon
“Katharine Weber is one of the wittiest, most stimulating novelists at work today.”―Chicago Tribune
“Weber remains a writer to be cherished, with the added, and quite rare, virtue of never writing a word too much.”―Publishers Weekly
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Though very successful financially and a partner in his prestigious architectural firm, Duncan has always felt that he has compromised his uniqueness to succeed professionally. While in grad school he designed the one home he considered remarkable but it was never built. He has followed obligingly in the steps and vision of his mentor, leaving his own creative vision behind. He actually questions if he ever had a true vision of his own.
Duncan has an identical twin, Gordy. Duncan was the first born and always the 'successful one'. Gordy has struggled through life and is awkward in social settings, not highly educated, and has never had much career motivation. For most of his life, Gordy lived with his mother but now rents a guest home on someone's property. He works in a book store where they are very accepting of his uniqueness. He loves Duncan unquestioningly and, in a certain sense, they are very close to each other.
Once he is discharged from the hospital, Duncan finds his days unbearable. Even with Ottoline and Laura helping him, along with a team of hired help, he feels 'less than'. He can no longer do the simplest activities of daily living and is dependent on others for all his basic needs. He spends most of his days looking out his home window and watching the goings on of his neighbors. Once he and Laura had an active life and were trying to conceive or adopt a child but now he sits in his wheel chair ruminating on what once was. "He simply hadn't allowed himself to understand that daily life as he had known it was over. He simply had not begun to imagine what it was really going to be like to live this new, constricted life in his own house. And now here he was. How could anyone live this way?"
Duncan's character is fully fleshed out as are Laura's and Gordy's. I felt like I could inhabit their world and understand who they were. I love the title of this book which can be interpreted in more than one way. Does the title refer to a 'still life', a portrait of a family set in time, or does it refer to the fact that Duncan still has a life despite the magnitude of his injuries?
The parts about Ottoline are wonderful. I hadn't known that capuchin monkeys were used as human helpers but it makes sense. They are relatively small and agile, their fingers capable of buttoning and unbuttoning shirts, using a remote and even gently ministering to their human by stroking a face or head. The author plans to donate a portion of the profits from the sale of this book to Helping Hands, an organization that trains capuchin monkeys to help humans in need.
STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY might not be the first book I would have gravitated toward--but I am so glad I did! Some books select YOU and this is absolutely one of them; I found it immensely moving, well-developed, and poignant.
Duncan Wheeler is a 37 year old successful architect (swoon!) married to a woman who is in art conservation (also, swoon) and they are trying to have a baby...but... Duncan and his intern are in a fatal car accident one day coming home from a site visit. His young intern dies and Duncan is left a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair. Duncan isn't sure if he's truly 'lucky' as everyone says...everyday is a fractured attempt at living the life he once had.
Duncan's will to live falters and his wife, Laura, reaches out to the Primate Institute of New England in effort to obtain a 'helper monkey' for Duncan. Maybe having Ottoline's 'helping hands' around, Duncan won't feel so dependent on others, perhaps his faith in life will be restored.
And for awhile, it does. Ottoline is delightful and charming and quite intelligent. She loves Nutella and peanut butter and is tiny and cute. But Duncan is struggling. He can no longer do many (most) things he once did--though he can consult with his architecture partners--still, life has been reduced to a revolving door of PCAs (personal care assistants), an active mind but no way to actualize his dreams.
The writing is absolutely gorgeous: poetic, yet stark. Characters are sympathetic, well-developed, and made a strong impression. I've been thinking about this book long after I finished the last page and sharing insights with others-- it definitely sparked a conversation or two and would be excellent reading for a book club.
In terms of comps, readers of Jodi Piccoult 's work will appreciate the 'big issues' controversy(ies). It also reminded me a bit of AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE (Tayari Jones) in terms of 'what is a marriage,' and also a similar writing style. Finally, STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY is resonate with Kathryn Craft's THE FAR END OF HAPPY.
Always with a Book