"Paint it Black" by Janet Fitch

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"Paint it Black" is Janet Fitch's powerful and compassionate novel of two women trying to get on with their lives in the wake of young Michael Faraday's suicide. Their shared lives and the ultimate divergence of their approaches to Michael's end make up the story.

Josie, the innocent from Bakersfield, is the lover Michael leaves behind, and our main protaganist. Her mix of internal dialog, recollection, and drug-addled guilt and grief make up much of the story. Ms. Fitch's handling of all this shows her great strength. She lets Josie's lament play itself fully out, believably, slowly, doggedly. In someone else's hands, this would not even have been published, but it's sustained and evolving, and true to life in Ms. Fitch's balanced and inevitable-seeming prose.
We also meet Meredith, Michael's aggrieved mother, a world-class classical pianist, who is outraged at Michael's leaving Harvard and falling in with Josie in L.A. After all, she's a runaway punk from Bakersfield. Meredith is at first quite hostile toward Josie, but she comes to depend on her and to cling to her as a last remnant of her departed son. She opens her home to Josie when she needs it most, and eventually invites Josie to come to Europe with her on her concert tour. Before she consents to first-class travel and five-star accommodation, though, Josie feels the need to travel to the motel on the edge of nowhere where Michael killed himself. She finds answers there, at the motel ironically called "Paradise," and another young woman who knew Michael only long enough to fall in love with him, and who is also deeply afflicted by Michael's death.

This difference between Meredith and Josie shows in high relief: Meredith wants to run to Europe, with its adoring crowds and flattering men, while Josie wants to follow Michael's path as far is it goes - she owes him that. And there she finds this other girl, with less Michael-history than Josie has, and opens up her home and the the opportunities of Los Angeles to her. Meredith runs, wanting to get away; Josie runs too, but toward the calamity, and eventually finds the answers to urgent questions.

This is compelling, life-affirming stuff. I admire Ms. Fitch's skill with a tricky subject. I'm very glad I picked this up, and I'm sure you will be, too.
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