Set primarily on the island of Ibiza, the story is narrated by the writer Amanda Wordlaw, whose closest friend, a gifted sculptor named Catherine Shuger, is repeatedly institutionalized for trying to kill a husband who never leaves her. The three form a quirky triangle on the white-washed island.
... a spartan work, set in the 1970s and grounded in the turbulence of competition in the late-20th-century art world ... don’t assume that the new novel’s slim size indicates a quieter book ... This is a brilliant and unsparing examination of the burdens we place on friendship and marriage, the way that creative genius is misperceived as madness, the clumsy way mental health is addressed, the scourge of racism, and the alchemy of folklore and legacy bound in the secrets we hide ... A Black woman working at the height of her powers, Catherine carries the projected burdens of being an activist as much as an artist. She’s also damned for those very expectations. Not Black enough for some, too Black for others, her work is scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. Her strain, though hyperbolic, possesses a certain gravity ... Curiously, this strikingly relevant novel is actually several decades old...What matters now is that, after a long silence, readers are enjoying a steady stream of her powerful writing.
... remarkable ... The nuances and foibles of their multilayered friendship are detailed through Amanda’s astute, conversational observations, along with reflections on their collective experiences as Black artists in creative spaces. Amanda, a character Jones introduced in The Healing (1998), is secretive with her friends, but her compelling backstory, told in alternating flashback chapters, is rife with explorations of marriage, motherhood, and identity. Jones’ prose is captivating, at moments coolly observational and at others profoundly intimate; the delicate balance is the mark of a truly great storyteller. An intriguing, tightly crafted, and insightful meditation on creativity and complicated friendships.
Jones continues her marvelous run after last year’s Pulitzer finalist Palmares with the gloriously demented story of an artist who keeps trying to kill her husband ... Jones, implicitly defiant, draws deeply from classic and global literature—a well-placed reference to Cervantes’s windmills leaves the reader’s head spinning. And like one of Amanda’s inventive novels, this one ends on a surprising and playful turn. It ought to be required reading.