This contemporary novel published by Thistle Publishing in 2014 manages to pack many things in. Off the top of my head: trust, faith, creativity, mental illness, friendship, love, ambition, success, shame, regret, the constraints imposed by money and its lack…
It contains first-person narratives from Ben, Rosemary, Cheryl and Jenny, and letters between Rosemary and her sister.
Middleaged artist Ben is a stranger in a small seaside town. He’s obviously hiding something. Fairly soon, two women Cheryl and Jenny have fallen under his spell, the first manipulative and dangerous, the second naïve and vulnerable, which provides suspense as we wonder what might happen to them all.
Rosemary is not infatuated with Ben but she too is drawn to something in him and his slowly progressing painting of God sensing some common ground, perhaps. She’s a 70ish retired and physicist who has not yet totally escaped an unhappy marriage, and has things in her past that she is afraid of bringing into the open.
I enjoyed many things about the book – the interaction of the characters, the intrigue that grows between them and within the gossipy community, the sense of place and atmosphere, and the mystery of who Ben really is and what he wants from this town. I loved the idea of Ben trying to paint God with the stubborn rectangle of white at its centre. Rosemary’s crochety complexity as a character and her backstory is conveyed gradually in a way that entices the reader to learn more. Jenny’s arc is well handled and leads to an unexpected place.
The ending didn’t entirely work for me due to aspects relating to changes in Rosemary, which felt a little abrupt. However, overall I would definitely recommend the book. Four stars on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1579427021).