cover image Crows over the Wheatfield

Crows over the Wheatfield

Adam Braver, . . Morrow, $24.95 (277pp) ISBN 978-0-06-078232-0

Van Gogh scholar Claire Andrews strikes a young boy while driving home and kills him instantly. Though she could do little to prevent the accident, Claire faces intense guilt, as well as a high-publicity, slanderous lawsuit pushed by the boy's grandfather, former city attorney Fletcher Kennealy. Claire's estranged husband, Richard, moves in to help her through the ordeal, as Claire struggles to complete a career-crucial monograph on Crows over the Wheat Field and its connection to Van Gogh's suicide. Claire quickly goes on sabbatical to Auvers-sur-Oise, the Mediterranean town where Van Gogh ended his life. There, she uncovers surprising new insights into Van Gogh and his already well-studied friendship with Dr. Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, physician, art collector, and amateur painter (and, natch, discovers parallels between Van Gogh's life and her own). Over-the-top prose ("Claire felt the dramatic irony of hope, looking into those pure eyes, knowing that heartbreak, disappointment, and affected and unaffected tragedy lie just beyond the door"), a plodding pace and a too-fast denouement can't quite kill this second novel from Braver (Divine Sarah ), who gets Claire's feelings right and offers up a nice look at Van Gogh's last years to boot. (June)