Still Life with Monkey

Katharine Weber. Paul Dry, $16.95 trade paper (287p) ISBN 978-1-58988-129-7
Weber’s brilliant novel (following The Memory of All That) follows married couple Duncan and Laura Wheeler as their lives are altered after a car accident—with Duncan at the wheel—leaves him a paraplegic and results in the death of his architect protégé. Laura, an art conservator, painstakingly analyzes cracked ceramic antiques and makes damaged classic paintings whole, and now has to contend with a husband who has lost his verve and motivation. Duncan’s identical twin, Gordon, has lived with various limitations all his life—he is mentally slow and has speech impediments—and Duncan has been his caretaker from afar, always making sure he eats, gets washed, and keeps his job at a bookstore. Now Gordon is the one who cares for Duncan, checking in on him to make sure he’s doing all right. When Laura learns about trained, dexterous capuchin monkeys who assist paralyzed people, she arranges for one to be brought to their home. As the comical creature touchingly becomes part of the family against the backdrop of Laura’s determined optimism and Duncan’s depression and humiliation over being forever dependent, the author explores questions about quality of life, the drive to be productive, and sacrifices born from a depth of love. Weber’s unsentimental and poignant examination of what does and does not make life worth living is a heartbreaking triumph. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/24/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
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