Wednesday, January 14, 2015
'A Thing of Beauty' by Lisa Samson
It's a wonder to behold what happens when love moves in . . .
Former child star Fiona Hume deserted the movie biz a decade ago--right after she left rehab. She landed in Baltimore, bought a dilapidated old mansion downtown, and hatched dreams of restoring it into a masterpiece, complete with a studio for herself. She would disappear from public view and live an artist's life.
That was the plan.
Ten years later, Fiona's huge house is filled with junk purchased at thrift stores, haggled over at yard sales, or picked up from the side of the road. Each piece was destined for an art project . . . but all she's got so far is a piece of twine with some antique buttons threaded down its length.
She's thirty-two years old and still recognizable, but Fiona's money has finally run out. She's gotten pretty desperate, too, and in her desperation she's willing to do almost anything for money. Almost. So it is that she comes to rent out the maid's quarters to a local blacksmith named Josia Yeu.
Josia is everything Fiona isn't: gregarious, peaceful, in control without controlling . . . in short, happy. As the light from the maid's quarters begins to permeate the dank rooms of Fiona's world, something else begins to transform as well--something inside Fiona. Something even she can see is beautiful.
Fiona (Fia) Hume is the daughter of a pair of movie stars. She grew up taking on several high profile roles herself, but was hurt in the show-biz world and wanted out. She divorces her parents and buys a run-down old mansion, where she's hidden for years. Fia is a hoarder with good intentions. She's collected all sorts of knick-knacks and bric-a-brac which she intends to make into art, but never gets around to. Into this haphazard world steps Josia, the boarder in her only clean room.
This is a cruisy sort of story with a sudden, non-traditional wrap-up. Maybe as it's an anti-Hollywood story, it doesn't need a Hollywood sort of ending. In fact, readers are left to make up our own minds about many things. Josia is a strange character with a touch of the supernatural, just enough to intrigue us. I was more than half expecting him to be revealed as an angel, but others may decide he's just a lonely guy with a great talent, amazing intuition and the constitution of Superman.
It's a story that makes us question what it was all about. To the world, Fiona has squandered all the advantages she was born with, which many would kill for, to the point of actually misplacing her Oscar in her mess - the ultimate loser. Social media is quick to put her down whenever she has a brush with the paparazzi. But Fia might have latched onto something of far more value than all the baggage that goes with being a celebrity. And thanks to the care of other characters, she begins to learn to see herself as a treasure too, just like the sort of discarded and used items she's been collecting.
(I can imagine some ladies saying that anyone might recover with men like Josia and Jack in their lives. I tend to agree.)
It's the sort of thoughtful story whose appeal is in the quotations rather than the action. The characters are fresh and original enough to spout the sort of quotes worth recording. Fia herself has a perceptiveness coupled with a dry sense of humour. She finds herself wondering why someone doesn't write a self-help book about the three steps you need to take before you're ready to take any steps at all. "But so far I haven't found anything like it."
And Josia fascinates me with his aim to help unkempt, uncared for things look like how they were intended in the first place. "This place was made to be beautiful. It's pretty now, but just now how it was made to be."
Any novel which may help us question the value of what 'the world' tells us we should be pursuing is worth a read in my opinion.
Thanks to Net Galley and Thomas Nelson for my review copy.