Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oprah's Book of the Week

The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words gets trotted out pretty regularly, but we so infrequently stop to think what it means. In this luminously vulnerable debut novel, Katie Ward takes seven real images of women reading and imagines a story for each one. From a young girl struggling with an unintended pregnancy in 1333 to a performer photographed by her less flamboyant but much more talented sister in the Victorian era to an adolescent who's fixated on a much older man during World War I, Ward's characters are so utterly relatable that you'll feel you know them after a few sentences. Yet none of them appears for more than a chapter, transforming each tale into a snapshot of a woman’s life. At first, the brevity of interaction is disappointing, because getting to know the characters is such a pleasure. But as you go (and the pages in this book do turn quickly), Ward's reason for creating these short portraits becomes clearer. The sketches she composes are an invitation to the "girl reading" (that's you!) to go further on your own, to imagine the characters' next chapters, or even their whole lives, to enjoy the infinite imaginative possibilities offered by a finite portrait. If you dig into the stories, you'll get far more than a mere thousand words. In fact, you'll discover, as one of Ward's characters says, that "there is a world under” each and every one.

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Photo: Simon & Schuster