cover image Self-Portrait with Boy

Self-Portrait with Boy

Rachel Lyon. Scribner, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6958-8

Lyon’s candid, adroit debut follows a young artist’s disturbing journey to find an audience. Lu Rile is a photographer squatting in a clapped-out industrial building in gritty 1990s Brooklyn. While staging a self-portrait, she accidentally captures a boy falling to his death outside her window. Although she has shot hundreds of images, this photograph is different, perfect. The boy’s tragic death creates a close community among the building’s tenants, mostly artists, and Lu becomes the confidant of Kate, the boy’s mother, who lives upstairs. Lu struggles to make ends meet and to find a gallery to represent her work, neglecting all along to tell Kate about her brilliant photograph. She manages to place it in an upcoming group exhibition in which Kate’s husband, Steve, also has a work, and tension mounts. Exacerbating Lu’s uncertainty about whether she is doing the right thing, she believes the ghost of the child is appearing at same window from which she captured him falling. But even this is not enough to push her to confess to his mother or pull the photograph from the show. Written in raw, honest prose, this is an affecting and probing moral tale about an artist choosing to advance her work at the expense of her personal relationships. (Feb.)