How does one define what makes a life worth living?
In Katharine Weber’s Still Life With Monkey (Paul Dry Books), Duncan Wheeler, a talented architect and owner of his own firm in New Haven, CT. On the way back from visiting his Thimble Islands site, he gets into a horrific car accident. His assistant is killed and he survives, but suffers an injury that results in becoming a quadriplegic.
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His wife Laura, is an art conservator at the Yale Art Gallery, fixing broken things for a living. She watches Duncan fall into depression, and while she struggles with her own thoughts of letting her dream go to become a mother, she reduces her hours at work so she can take care of her husband.
Every day becomes “a broken series of unsuccessful gestures” and his will to live is wavering. To add to the already-growing number of hired aides to help take care of Duncan, and to lift his spirits, she requests a capuchin monkey to become a part of their in-home support. Ottoline is feisty, charming and lovable – a welcoming character who gives Duncan some pleasure as he thinks about how he might live and exit this life. Will sitting around in a wheelchair all day be Duncan’s life? Is being alive the same as living?
Not only are we forced to ponder what a life worth living may be, but Katharine Weber teaches us about architecture and art conservation, about care for a paraplegic and about helper monkeys.
Ottoline is based on a helper monkey the author met in Massachusetts that was helping a married couple. Farah could perform tasks like buttoning and unbuttoning, page turning, social interaction, bonding and emotional connection. Farah is 7 pounds and 36 years old and is living with her second and last family, as 40 years old is life expectancy for a monkey living in captivity.
The character of Ottoline adds texture to an already rich story that highlights ideas about twins, children and secrets. Duncan is a twin and had been considered the original, and his brother Gordon, the copy. Duncan had a big life, was highly educated and married with an important job. In contrast, Gordon had a speech impediment and rode his bike to work at a bookstore.
Still Life With Monkey is a story about life and relationships. It is not a tearjerker, yet it is filled with compassion and humor.
Still Life With Monkey is now available to purchase.
ABOUT KATHARINE WEBER:
Katharine Weber’s first five highly-praised and award-winning novels have made her a book club favorite.
Her new novel and seventh book, Still Life With Monkey (Paul Dry Books), has won advance praise with a starred review from Kirkus (“Rigorously unsentimental yet suffused with emotion: possibly the best work yet from an always stimulating writer.”) Painters saw unnatural stillness as a contradiction in terms, yet containing a mysterious truth. Here, too, mysterious truth – a car accident, a wheelchair (another contradiction), paralysis, and honest and beautifully-drawn people, stopped in midpassage. To this still life comes the capuchin monkey, the service animal who attends the disconnections of the spine, the spirit, and of the species. Still Life is life still―the theme of this original, remarkable book.”)
Katharine is going into her seventh year as the Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College. She has previously taught creative writing at Yale University (for eight years), and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the graduate writing program in the School of the Arts at Columbia University for six years. She has taught at various international writing workshops, from the Paris Writers Workshop several summers in a row to the San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. In Summer 2018, she is teaching a week-long novel workshop at the West Cork Literary Festival in Ireland. All of Katharine’s books have been republished in paperback, some of them in more than one edition, and all are available as e-books. Take note, book groups!