Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Love Ceiling by Jean Davies Okimoto

The Love Ceiling was a gift from a friend of my own age who knew how well I would relate to the main character of this novel. Actually I think most women of our generation would find Annie Duppstadt's story familiar. Our generation in particular was, I believe, torn more than others between the need for our own interests/career with our strong desire to have a home and family like our mothers had. For many of us our mothers just accepted their lot in life, but we weren't so willingly compliant. The generations following ours openly defy the convention of women being only the mother/nurturer/caregiver and that's a very good thing.

You see, Annie, a woman in her 60s, is the daughter of a famous artist, a man fawned over by the public. He also happens to have a huge ego, cheats on his wife, and generally treats her like a piece of furniture or a servant. Annie's mother has Japanese ancestry and she just accepts his ill treatment. He had crushed Annie's budding artistic talent and she is plagued with stomach problems every time she sees him. Her brother seems unaware of the situation.

Then there is Annie's husband, Jack, nearing retirement with no other interests and feeling like he is being pushed aside. And their daughter in her early 30s whose long term live-in romance with a young doctor is falling apart. He is cheating on her as well. Annie's only joy in her life comes from her son and daughter-in-law's child, Sam, whose love fills her heart, and from walking her dog Daisy. She also has a part-time job doing arts and crafts with people having emotional problems and she finds this work fulfilling and important but others call it her "little part-time job."

After her mother dies, Annie decides to honor a final promise to her mother by pursuing serious art studies. This sets off a string of events that will change her life and also the lives of her family members. I found her struggle through the transition engrossing as I have had similar experiences, and I admired her as she found the courage to be herself at long last. There are wonderful characters in the book, a multigenerational group, each with his or her own wisdom to impart and life passages to go through.

This is a book I will keep. I think I'll be going back to it often for my own dose of courage as I face passages in my own life. I highly recommend this book. It's probably most pertinent to women 50 and over but I think everyone can relate to someone in the book.

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