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The year is 2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.
The year is 1852: Josephine is a 17-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm - an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.
It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: Art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.
A descendant of Josephine's would be the perfect face for the lawsuit - if Lina can find one. But nothing is known about Josephine's fate following Lu Anne Bell's death in 1852. In piecing together Josephine's story, Lina embarks on a journey that will lead her to question her own life, including the full story of her mother's mysterious death 20 years before.
Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing tale of art and history, love, and secrets explores what it means to repair a wrong, and asks whether truth can be more important than justice.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jeanette Finan on 02-21-13
This book looked really great from the summary I read before I purchased it. And in a lot of ways it was a pretty good book. It's just that I had to keep suspending my disbelief so often that I finally got tired of doing it. But let me be clear, I am not complaining about the writing. While I thought this book was well written it could have definitely used some professional editing to keep the plot from drifting off into implausibility so often. Had this not been basically such a good book (interesting plot line, good writing) I could have shrugged this book off and I would not now be going to all the trouble of writing a long review to critique it.
The story of the slave Josephine Bell was the most interesting to me. I thought the parts of the book relating to her life very poignant and probably basically true to life. But even here I had to quibble with the fact that she was so educated and had so much opportunity to spend time not to mention access to art supplies that she was able to produce the body of work that was apparently floating around in the 21st century. At first I wondered at some of the risks she took but then I realized at the end she was only 17 years old and at that age one does not consider risks as carefully as a say, a 27 year old would have. I was able to suspend mild mild disbelief while reading her portion of the book ecause it was a very good story line.
Lina came across as even more unbelievable. She didn't fit the type one would expect to have even been hired at a high powered NY law firm that specializes in corporate litigation. The amount of the damages being sued for also struck me as highly unlikely. No one, especially the Government is going to sit still for a suit asking for that kind of damages without pulling some major strings to stifle it and the fact the author had all the attorney's sitting around with sugar plumbs dancing in their heads just did not work for me. High powered corporate lawyers ought to have a firmer grasp on reality than the ones in this book did. Still, they are part the 100% and reality is not their strong suit so . . . . . . . .
Also that all the research necessary to prove this case just fell into Lina's lap from a source that was least likely to help her was the final straw for me. And last but not least, I thought the ending was messy. There was not closure to any of the plot lines.
Still, this was still an OK read. I think I am complaining because I think it could have been so much more.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
By tooonce72 on 02-27-13
The book moves through two different linked stories at the same time. The chapters nicely meander back and forth from 1850 to modern day. The intertwined stories of this book are fascinating - especially the historical tales. I personally enjoyed both sides till the modern tale started having plausibility issues for me. I found the modern day heroine soon to be extremely childish and completely unbelievable.
The book was an enjoyable read for the most part. My big problem with this book was the pace. To me it felt like the author got bored of her own story lines; quickly dripping them after taking her time getting you there. At times I felt she intended for character to return later in the book because why bring them up if there was no point, but they never did. The end is extremely rushed.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful