Tall Poppy Kathryn Craft has a suggestion for your next #FridayRead …

I’ve got to tell you right up front that I do not read for escapism. I read to discover and to understand things outside my experience; to feel and think more deeply. I like a book that delivers a great story through beautiful language. I like my characters flawed, gritty, curious, and observant. I want them to offer fresh perspective. I like a book that keeps on giving after you close its covers.

If you are a kindred spirit, I urge you to pick up a copy of Brunt’s amazing debut novel, which since its publication five years ago has been named one of the best books of the year by The Wall Street Journal, O: The Oprah Magazine, BookPage, and Kirkus Reviews. And if you ever had a crush on an older male relative, you will relate to fourteen-year-old June Elbus, who loved a renowned painter who also happens to be her Uncle Finn.

Shortly after June and her older sister complete the interminable work of sitting for a portrait he is determined to paint of them, Finn dies. June’s need to know more about the circumstances of his death—to preserve every single scrap of Finn she can find—leads her to step outside the boundaries of her everyday life and smack into family secrets. Soon she is taking solo train trips into the city to meet with a man June’s mother worked hard to keep hidden: Finn’s lover, Toby.

Brought together irresistibly by their mutual love of Finn, June’s tentative friendship with Toby is healing in many ways, although by necessity kept secret from June’s mother, who refers to Toby as her brother’s killer. June and her sister struggles with Finn’s death in her own way, pulling the family apart. But the painting and Toby have amazing roles in pulling the family back together, and Brunt does a brilliant job of delineating each character’s emotional arc.

This is the opposite of escapism as the novel digs deep to find the shared humanity of these characters. Of it, BookPage wrote: “This compassionate and vital novel will rivet readers until the very end…. The narrative is as tender and raw as an exposed nerve, pulsing with the sharpest agonies and ecstasies of the human condition.” If you’ve read my novels, you’ll understand why that quote excites me so.

Many thanks to my good friend, Therese Walsh, founder of Writer Unboxed and a wonderful author in her own right, for recommending this title to me. Examples from its finely wrought emotional turning points have become a staple in my writing workshops.

About Kathryn Craft:

Kathryn Craft  is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks, THE ART OF FALLING and THE FAR END OF HAPPY, and a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” was included in the writing guide Author in Progress, from Writers Digest Books. Janice Gable Bashman’s interview with her, “How Structure Supports Meaning,” originally published in the 2017 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, has been reprinted in The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, both from Writer’s Digest Books.