At the end of WW II, Lily gets off a train in Canada expecting to meet and marry Sol, but the minute he sees her Sol retreats. His brother Nathan steps up and falls in love at that moment and they have the wedding Lily and Sol were supposed to have. But maybe not the life they were meant to live happily ever after…
Just as 28 year-old Eloise Hempl is starting her career as a history professor at Harvard, she gets a call from her oldest niece, 11 year-old Theo, asking Eloise to come to her and her two siblings : their parents’ sightseeing helicopter has crashed and both have died. Flash forward 17 years. Eloise wants to sell the historic family mansion and the cobbled-together-family’s history is dissected.
In a series of emails to an old friend (antagonist?) who’s usurped his (the email writer’s) life story for his (the old friend’s) novel, he (the one with the life story to tell) tries to set the record straight. Very distinctive epistolery voice of a 40 year-old man authored by a woman.
Clare Porterfield is a photographer who has recently lost her 6 year-old daugher, accidentally asphyxiated on the backyard swing-set. When she is invited back to her hometown of Galveston to organize an historical exhibit, she drives off leaving her husband (for good).
After losing his dog, which gave his life a certain structure, aging painter Harold Nivenson deliberately sets himself downhill, sitting in an armchair and filling 3×5 cards with artistic ruminations and bits of autobiography.
Two (abused and neglected) young girls bury their parents– each thinking the other is responsible for the father’s death which led to the mother’s suicide– in the backyard hoping no one notices ’til the elder is 16 and they are legally able to fend for themselves (in Glasgow, Scotland).
The “paint” refers not only to the pigments Degas uses to create his masterpieces featuring ballet dancers, but also the paint (as in facepaint) the young girls use to transform themselves. The author’s note mentions “imagination and ink,” perhaps the literary equivalent of paint.