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Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
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Still Life with Monkey

by Katharine Weber

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STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY may not be what you expect. But it is such a lovely novel I give it my highest rating, and I seldom do that.

The story opens with Duncan, a quadriplegic architect in his 30s, after he is first introduced to Ottoline, a small helper monkey. You may expect, then, that STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY continues the story of “life with monkey.” Yes and no.

STILL LIFE WITH MONKEY is a character-driven novel that studies Duncan and the people closest to him, his wife, Laura, and his twin brother, Gordon. Ottoline is part of the story, but she’s not the story.

Katharine Weber makes her characters seem so real because, as she says, she uses “real-world information,” including architecture, art conservation, Sears kit houses, infertility, quadriplegia, monkey helpers, the right to die, twins, and Chinese porcelains. And she makes it interesting as you learn more and more about Duncan, Laura, and Gordon.

Author Ann Packer says that this book is “a meditation on the question of what makes life worth living.” Maybe, but I understood the opposite: what makes life worth dying.

I love this book and wish I read Katharine Weber sooner. ( )
  techeditor | Sep 18, 2018 |
This story of a couple—Duncan and Laura Wheeler, an architect paralyzed in an accident and his wife—is funny and smart and sad in equal measures. Weber gets at the shifts and dynamics between the two, the ill and the healthy spouse with an entire marriage's complications already packed into their otherwise smoothly run lives, and paints a sympathetic but not sentimental portrait, sometimes harsh but always believable. The monkey in question is Ottoline, a tufted capuchin "monkey helper" engaged to help Duncan with small tasks, but also a sharply drawn little character in her own right. This is all about relationships: Duncan and Laura, Duncan and his sweet oddball brother Gordon, the Wheelers and Ottoline, and—in stark highlight—Duncan's relationship to his once-comfortable life and his new limitations, the true heartbreaker of the novel. Weber's observations, small and large, are engaging and spot-on, and even Ottoline is given a believable interiority. Good, subtle, smart stuff. ( )
2 vote lisapeet | Jul 28, 2018 |
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