cover image Black & White

Black & White

Dani Shapiro, . . Knopf, $24 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-375-41548-7

Clara, the protagonist of Shapiro's uneven fifth novel (after Family History ), is the youngest daughter and muse of Ruth Dunne, a famous Manhattan photographer who made her name shooting Sally Mann–style (read: nude and provocative) photos of a young Clara. Unable to bear the humiliation of being "the girl in those pictures," Clara runs away from home at 18. Fourteen years later and still estranged from her mother, Clara's living in Maine with her husband and daughter when her older sister calls and tells her Ruth is in failing health. Clara travels back to Manhattan, where she comes to terms with her family and herself. Though Clara's frequent bemoaning of her emotional scars tries the reader's patience, Shapiro's sharp depictions of love and shame go a long way toward putting the self-pity into relief. It's unfortunate that Ruth fails to comes across as anything more than a narcissistic artist, but the novel offers some fine insights into marriage, the making of art and the often difficult mother-daughter dynamic. (Apr.)