The emotionally fractured casualty of a hideous childhood tragedy, Catherine has at last found her happy-ever-after in the person of Grayson Barnett, and it is the promise of a freshly polished future that compels her to bury the poisonous trail of her past beneath the purposeful lies and omissions she offers her new husband.
But now, with the inherent shame of her traumatic history secreted away and losing hold, Cat finds herself increasingly troubled as Gray falls into an erratic pattern of late night wanderings through the house, painting the bare walls with extravagant murals. And only when the unthinkable happens—a devastating blow which leaves her broken and spiraling—and an unexpected arrival on her doorstep, bearing a cache of impossible revelations—is Cat forced to question whether the man she so desperately loves is in truth a stranger and their beautiful life a gross falsehood constructed upon a foundation of lies.
Painted From Memories is a heart wrenching story heavy in prose and haunted pasts by Barbara Forte Abate. Cat hides her memories from her new husband, Gray, while trying to build a life full of only love and happiness.
Cat grew up in a household in which she witnessed her father abuse her mother. Eventually, she and her sister ended up in a foster home, where she was treated more like a slave than a child. Ashamed of her past, she keeps everything a secret. Readers will sympathize with Cat's horrifying past and hope for her chance at a lifetime of happiness. But when her husband dies in a freak accident, readers become witness to a woman who is swallowed by depression. The bond initially created will strengthen in the wake of tragedy. Though Cat is a secretive, standoffish, needy, damaged character, readers will grow to understand her as the story unfolds.
The plot is a slow development. Abate's writing style is heavy in prose and details laced with beautiful descriptions. The beginning of the novel presents Gray and Cat as newlyweds, preparing to move from Georgia to Maine. Too soon, she is widowed and her hope is lost. Until Gray's brother, who Cat thought was deceased, shows up on her doorstep. Then Cat begins to realize that she wasn't the only one in their marriage keeping secrets. The story line is character driven and the informational climax will push readers through to the end.
Though it's worth discussing that Cat's mental state possibly worsened to the point of delusion around the novel's midway point, after her husband's death. She was showing obvious signs of depression and had suicidal thoughts, even going so far as to create a plan of action. Which leads me to three interpretations of the novel's end:
1) Gray did in fact lie and his brother and their tragic past is all real. Cat and Rance do fall in love and she leaves behind the weighing memories that threaten to destroy her for another chance at happiness.
2) Cat is delusional and has invented Gray's brother because of the guilt she feels for never telling her husband the truth of her past. Rance gives Cat a chance to redeem herself by sharing the truth of what happened to her and her sister.
3) Cat succeeded in committing suicide and afterwards, she must work through her problems so that she can forgive herself and move on into the afterlife. Rance is the chance to work through her abusive past.
Recommended for readers who enjoy a chance at really analyzing characters and story lines with multiple interpretations.
Rating: 3/5 Cups