This novel is the Pale Fire of paintings, and the museum—a small, privately-funded institution in a town noted mostly for its shovel factory—is the unreliable narrator version of exhibition spaces. The objectivity we would expect in such labels is replaced by unsoftened opinions, a catalogue of strange deaths, and an accumulation of abrupt narrative scraps. These glimpses add up to create a larger view of the Seagraves’ circle of eccentric friends as well as the tragedy that struck the family’s lives ... The poignancy of her meditations on regrets of the past and the approach of her final moments on earth provide a profound contrast for the novel’s more comic material ... includes a number of genuinely fascinating ideas for works of visual art, as if Kirkpatrick, perhaps lacking the time or the means to actualize his ideas, was still able to give them a sort of life via description.
The buzzword nowadays in art-world circles is access—how the concerns and biases of the institution or curator affect which individuals feel welcomed within the museum space. In his first novel, Kirkpatrick weaves a playful and compelling tale that addresses the issue holistically ... Rather than being led around based on the institution's whim and fancy, we're forced to discern how personal interactions shade our perceptions of art as well as whether the backers responsible for the space have any impact on the viewer outside of financials. Plus we get the surface pleasure of discerning how the author has constructed a plot within these parameters ... A novel of ideas whose appeal goes far beyond its target audience—be it literary readers skeptical of yet another postmodern yarn or art-world enthusiasts jaded about its ivory-tower state of affairs.