Painting Julianna

by Elizabeth



                               

5M4B disclosure

Juliana’s life is a mess. Her husband Oliver has suddenly become a total jerk, separating her from her kids. She’s been estranged from her brother and father for years. Now she gets a call–her father’s had a motorcycle accident, and she finds out he has Altzheimer’s to boot, and has left instructions granting her power of attorney and mentioning the home which he’s chosen to go to, should the need arise.

She moves back to her childhood after her husband kicks her out. There she begins to uncover the past that up till now has been shrouded in mystery, the truth about her parents’ marriage, her mother’s mental illness, and her troubled girlhood. She discovers that her father is actually a brilliant painter who’s represented by a gallery in New York, something that has been kept completely hidden from her and her brother through the years. The paintings mysteriously appear in her life, and as she shows them to her father, the paintings come to life in strange and magical ways.

Meanwhile, she finds herself having to sell her clothing, jewelry and car in order to survive and pay the bills. Her husband finds more and more creative ways to be a complete pig, and she feels like she’s losing her kids, boy-girl twins in the 8th grade. She reconciles with her brother as well, and begins to help him and his partner start a new business.

Painting Juliana felt to me like I had unearthed something with a lot of potential that was hidden underneath clingy, clay-caked soil. The basic plot line is good, and Martha Louise Hunter is a good writer, but this book really needs a good edit. The grammatical mistakes aren’t terrible, but bad enough to be distracting (sentence fragments, dangling modifiers, spelling mistakes).

Additionally, the book is crying out for a good revision. Oliver is a very two-dimensional bad guy–he’s too heartless to believe–and I can’t believe all her friends would take his side and their kids would believe his lies. Julianna is just too much of a victim. Can nothing ever in her entire life go right for this poor woman? She’s educated and worked at a law office before her marriage, but she misses all the deadlines to respond to the divorce proceedings and let’s him just kick her out of her house and her kids’ lives with just a few tears. The author also has a style that hints but doesn’t reveal, and it was frustrating to try to figure out what exactly was going on. I love nuance and I don’t need things spelled out, but many scenes that were obviously pivotal were left obscure.  It was hard to stick with, but at the same time I felt I could see what the author was trying to do, and I liked it enough to keep going. Like I said–a good revision and a good edit and this would be a gem.

Oddly enough, the best characters are the ones in supporting roles. The description of her mother’s descent from capable, confident, beautiful Latina woman to one who won’t leave the house is well done. The characters of her brother’s partner and her parents’ former boss have real life.

Painting Juliana was a finalist in the Writers League of Texas Mainstream Fiction Contest and gets lots of good reviews on Amazon.

tlc-logo-resized

 

 

Email Author    |    Website About Elizabeth

View all articles by


                               

This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support this site. Thank you!
See our Disclosure Policy for details.

First Impressions, a novel of Jane Austen #Giveaway

The full title of Charlie Lovett’s novel is First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, which sums it up pretty well, except I’d definitely add mystery to the mix. The Jane Austen parts dovetail with the present-day to an extent, as Sophie find out more about the rare book that she’s trying to find for a buyer. We are reading about Jane Austen’s special friendship with an older gentleman, and learning about how he might have influenced Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. Go over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read my full review of Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions. You can enter to win a giveaway too.
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Today I’m Going to Wear…

Asking a toddler what he or she wants to wear can be the beginning of a seemingly endless process. I remember my own kids having their favorite articles of clothing and sometimes switching allegiances at the drop of a hat (pun fully intended). A new brightly colored board book by Dan Stiles, Today I’m Going to Wear…, depicts the experience of one very enthusiastic young girl choosing her clothing and accessories, and you can imagine that she shows her creativity in the process. Though it starts out simply enough with one little yellow bow, soon the girl is mixing and matching and accessorizing with glee and complete disregard for complementary colors or styles. Yes, she is a toddler, so this will come as no surprise to parents
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Sister Mother Husband Dog: (Etc.)

Delia Ephron and her sister Nora are well-known in America, mostly for such movies as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. This collection of essays by Delia was my introduction to her as a writer and as a person. Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc. is a collection of personal essays on a wide range of topics, from an extremely poignant one dealing with Nora’s death, to humourous ones on how she lost her 20s to an idealism sprung from over-watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. She talks about her dog, Honey, her family, growing up as the  child of alcoholic parents, the importance of friends, and more, ranging in topic from the weighty to the light and frothy. Ephron is an excellent writer, and
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds

Mr. Tweed is a smartly dressed dog who is heading out for his daily walk. With his dapper suit jacket, striped trousers, walking stick, and extremely tall stovepipe hat, he looks like quite the character. Soon, he reveals himself as a kind friend as he bumps into neighbor after neighbor in need of assistance. Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten tells the story of this helpful dog, in a picture book that is part narrative, part counting book, and part ‘look-and-find’ activity book. Each friend that Mr. Tweed assists is looking for an increasing number of items or creatures- one kite, two kittens, three mice, in that type of pattern. After the missing object is declared, readers are invited to search for them on the
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Us by David Nicholls

Douglas is awakened one night by his wife Connie who says simply “I think our marriage has run its course.” It’s a time of change, the summer before their only child leaves for University, and so Douglas understands Connie’s unhappiness on that level, but he can’t come to grips with her assertion that their marriage is over.  They had already planned a grand tour of Europe as a last family trip, which she wants to keep on the books and not talk about the possibility of her leaving until Fall. The author David Nicholls has made a video in which he explains the basic plot and purpose of Us: A Novel well, so I’ll invite you to watch it: The novel is told solely from
Read the full article →
 


                                       

6 Round-Ups on Reading

As you know, 5 Minutes for Mom is our parent site. There have been quite a few bookish posts there lately that I wanted to be sure you haven’t missed. And if you have, there’s no time like the present to click through and enjoy: 1. When Kyle was a young early reader, getting him to read was a challenge. One of the first series that hooked his interest was Ricky Ricotta. Kyle and I made a video post in honor of its all new release in full color, so go ahead and watch us embarrass ourselves as we try to sound smart and look cute (at least those were my goals). 2. 5 Minutes for Mom writer Bonnie Way recommends 10 Books for Armchair
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Bad Dog Flash

A puppy and mischief go hand in hand, and in Ruth Paul’s new picture book Bad Dog Flash, the mischief couldn’t get any cuter. Flash has energy, and he just wants to play. When chasing the cat leads to him getting chastised, Flash tries to avert his attention to other playful things. But trying to carry a stick inside results in a broken window, and sniffing at the shoes all lined up in a row ends in a mess of chewed leather. After a series of indoor and outdoor adventures gone awry, poor Flash is mucky and sent out to his dog house away from everyone else. Thank goodness that his little girl knows when he needs some love. As a picture book, this makes
Read the full article →
 


                                       

A Brief Moment of Weightlessness #Giveaway

In A Brief Moment of Weightlessness, author Victoria Fish takes us deep into everyday lives, into the thoughts and emotions of people facing various crises or developments, into the heads of children, the elderly, teens, mothers of grown children, and more. This collection of short stories deals with events as small as a girl dealing with her older sister’s adolescence, as momentous as a couple adjusting to life after an accident has left the husband missing a leg. Fish’s genius lies in her ability to plunge her reader down into the depths of the psyche. Her writing is lyrical and lush with description. Each story begins in the middle, as it were, and it only becomes clear as the reader opens herself up to it.
Read the full article →
 


                                       

A Collection of Oxford Children’s Classics

The thing with the classics is that you grow up with them, and you love them, and by the time you’re ready to pass them on to your own kids, they are tattered and dog-eared and too-much-loved, and that’s if you’ve managed to hang on to them and not lost them in one of your many moves. It’s time for new versions, and Oxford University Press is obliging by coming out with new editions of all your old favorites. And they are delightful; they contain the original unabridged stories, of course, but also bonus material such as quizzes, reading recommendations, fun and unusual facts about the author, and more. I chose four to look at, but they’re coming out with many more. With these reviews,
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Little Humans #Giveaway

Fans of Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York have likely heard about his newest book focusing on young subjects from his NYC photography project. Little Humans, which is already receiving tons of publicity and positive reviews, made me smile, too. A celebration of childhood through simple, encouraging text and gorgeous photographs of young kids, this book is a delight to look at whether you’re little or not. To hear more of my thoughts on this book, please read my full review over on 5 Minutes for Mom, where you can enter to win a copy of both this beautiful picture book and a Little Humans poster.
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Crooked River

Just weeks after burying their mother and days after moving into a teepee in a meadow to live with their long-absent father, 15 year old Sam and her 10 year old sister Ollie find the dead body of a young woman in the river. As Ollie had stopped talking when her mother died (just as she previously did after the death of a relative), the responsibility of reporting what they’ve seen lies with Sam. Not saying anything about it to the authorities or to her father, Bear, becomes a decision that weighs on her conscience in coming days when their already loosely tethered new life begins to unravel. The opening of Valerie Geary’s debut novel Crooked River doesn’t hold back. Readers first meet Sam and Ollie in the moment they
Read the full article →