When you find an author who includes the Boston Beaneaters in her narrative, you know you’ve found a kindred soul. Sally Cabot Gunning’s newest historical fiction sweeps us off Cape Cod to 1893 Martha’s Vineyard. In the middle of the island we meet Ida Russell Pease, a Boston Museum School trained painter who has traded in her brushes, easels, and palettes for hayracks, shears, and a bicycle. After learning her husband is lost at sea, the Widow Pease, (much like Lyddie Barry in Gunning’s The Widow’s War) sets out to redefine her life on her terms. From glimpses of the suffrage movement to the direct symbolism of the bicycle as a means to achieve movement and freedom, Painting the Light reveals buried strengths and resolves for women to march forward. Ida’s success in overcoming difficult relationships and one family tragedy after another emboldens her. Gunning captures the setting of island life in New England with vivid sensory detail making the pages blend into a masterpiece fit for framing..
That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.Jhumpa Lahiri
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