The Charming Curiosities

“Art is like life. It’s fragile, but that doesn’t mean you should never take a risk.”

Nell Parker has a Ph.D., a wonderful marriage, a beautiful home, and another negative pregnancy test.

After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl who lived for a very short time and four failed IVF treatments, her husband and her decide to take some time off. Nell needs to find something to keep her occupied and she also needs to find a way to make money to pay off the mountain of debt that their IVF treatments have cost; which she has kept hidden from her husband, Josh.

When she sees an advertisement in the newspaper for a director position at the Mansion Hill Artists’ Colony, she decides to inquire about the job. Less than 48 hours after seeing the advertisement, she is hired and begins working. The Colony was established by the late Betsy Barrett and was meant to serve as an escape for a select group of artists to be able to work on their newest projects. Prior to Betsy’s death, she chose three artists to come and live in the colony; Odin, Paige, and Annie.

Each artist is different in their own way. There’s Odin who focuses on metal-work to keep his mind off of an unforgettable heartbreak. Paige who seems to focus on anything and everything, especially her phone. And Annie, well she has a surprise photography project that she is working on and it may cause quite a stir.

When I first saw The Curiosities by Susan Gloss in the bookstore, I was immediately drawn to the cover of the book. While I don’t have much of an artistic side, I have always been drawn to the arts. I love the way that it allows every person to express themselves in different ways. When I read the synopsis of The Curiosities, I was drawn in even more. I saw that the novel is the follow-up to Susan Gloss’s debut novel, Vintage, and chose to read Vintage first. Which I read and loved, it gave me all the good feelings. One of my favorite characters from Vintage was Betsy Barrett- it seemed like there was so much more to her story and I wanted to know what it was. In fact, through all of the glimpses of the characters’ lives in Vintage, I was disappointed that Betsy never had her own chapter. But, Susan Gloss didn’t let me down. She devoted a book to the life of Betsy Barrett and it was wonderful.

While I did find The Curiosities to be a bit slow at first, really, it was just the author setting the background of each character and their backgrounds are important. I was fascinated by this book and found myself utterly caught up with all of the characters- wanting to know more. At one point during the book, I found that I was crying through each individual’s chapter (on more than one occasion); their grief seemed so real to me. 

What Susan Gloss did was give her readers a glimpse of all the tragedies that life can throw at you. The unfairness of age, illness, loss, death and even of love. What I appreciated most of all about this book is that Betsy Barrett was connected in different ways to each character- she left a piece of herself behind for each of them to discover. And while, in the beginning, it seemed that none of the artists had a connection to one another; in the end, what connected them all was their love of art. 

I encourage you to pick up this book and give it a whirl. 

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