Endicott and Hugh Books, 2009
My Rating: A
Have you ever read a book that felt like it came from your own life? The Love Ceiling felt like that for me. Well, maybe not all the exact details, but in the general concepts.
Imagine a main character who -
- is in her mid-sixties,
- has grown children she still worries about,
- has a long term marriage challenged by retirement,
- aging and ailing parents, and
- a strong internal desire to persue her own creative dreams.
It was great to read a story about a woman my age. The Love Ceiling takes a look at a woman who is bright and passionate and who has a lot of things to deal with. Life wasn’t all tied up with a bow at age thirty.
Annie, the main character, is a woman sandwiched in-between her concerns for all the people she loves.
- After a long illness, her beloved mother is dying. Her father, a famous artist, is emotionally separate and concerned only with his own needs and pleasures.
- Annie has a good and long marriage but her husband’s career is winding down and he fears he’ll lose his identity if he retires.
- Annie is an art therapist and she cares about her patients.
- Their son travels a lot and, for some reason, her relationship with her daughter-in-law is only cordial. They don’t see their grandson very often.
- And then there is her daughter, Cass. Cass is in an unhappy relationship which ends near the beginning of the story. Cass can still handle her job but everything else is going downhill. She’s depressed, starts drinking too much wine and doesn’t feel like eating. She seems to be able to focus only on how unhappy she is with her life. She avoids talking with her mother.
Annie has a lifelong need to express herself through art, but it always gets put off, usually because of family pressures. As a child Annie loved art but her psychologically abusive father told her she wasn’t good. But now Annie has met an art teacher who recognizes her talent. He is supportive and encouraging and Annie starts to paint again.
The story is told in chapters alternating between Annie and her daughter, Cass. The story takes place over several months and involves the events in the lives of both women and their family.
At first I just wanted to read about Annie’s problems and I was impatient with Cass. She seemed so self-absorbed and selfish. Couldn’t she see that her mother was loaded with problems and needed her help?
As I sat back and thought about these two fictional women, I realized the genius of telling the story this way. The contrast between the two women is the heart of the story. They are at opposite stages in their lives. Annie can remember a time in her life when she went through a nightmare similar to her daughter’s. But Cass can’t relate to Annie’s role of long-term wife, mother, grandmother, art therapist, or artist.
Cass couldn’t see that Annie gave up her art studio when Cass needed to move back home. She didn’t see when the three-year-old grandson squirted tubes of paint all over Annie’s gorgeous landscape painting. After all these starts and stops in her painting, and all the events going on, Annie finally said:
“I’m beginning to think this whole thing is futile,” I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand.
“There is a glass ceiling for women, Jack,” I stared at my painting in the dim light next to the washer and dryer. “And it’s made out of the people we love.”
Lots to think about here. Is there a glass ceiling made of love? Do women hold themselves back because of the people in their lives or is it thrust upon them? It’s a book that raises many questions. For me, it was thought-provoking as well as an emotional read. It cut close many times.
It’s being called “a coming-of-age novel for women in their 50′s, 60′s, 70′s, and beyond.” It’s also one I’m hoping my daughters (in their thirties) will read because of it’s exploration of the roles of women.
This will make a good book-club book. In fact there are discussion questions in the back. If you are on your own or your book-club doesn’t want to read it, I recommend reading it on your own as I did. If you want to talk about it, email me. We’ll have a great conversation.
Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of The Love Ceiling‘s tour. If you’d like to see other stops on the tour, check out the schedule here.