Click here to read reviewer Anne Pepper's take on Revenge.
Andrea Geller is an artist hoping for tenure at Heartwood College in Connecticut. Loretta Partlow is a prolific and much acclaimed novelist who lives in the neighborhood near the college. The artist and the writer will enter into a complicated relationship that will change both of their lives, one more significantly than the other.
Andrea is consumed with her father’s death, convinced her stepmother played some part in it the night he drove off a bridge, overmedicated, and lingered in a coma for two years before he expired. Andrea visited her comatose father regularly and has concocted a whole scenario to prove her stepmother’s involvement, if only through negligence.
In the beginning, the two women only meet in passing, walking their dogs, but eventually Loretta makes more familiar overtures, and Andrea is only too willing to have an audience for her sad history and theory of her father’s death. The consummate writer and avid listener, Loretta appears sincerely interested in the young woman’s tale of woes; gradually Andrea develops a plan to use the writer to expose her stepmother. But Andrea soon loses her objectivity, revealing her deepest secrets and fears to the author.
Andrea’s life is untidy and unfocused, but she has been working on a new series of paintings which Loretta encourages - all images of her father’s home in Shallow Lake, where the family spent summers before the divorce. Andrea’s repetitious renderings slowly evolve into an artistic statement, an emotional canvas of her internal struggle with the loss of her father and her own ambivalence about the past. Loretta’s interest in her work and story serves as a catalyst, triggering long-buried memories and emotional scars.
Morris blends the memory of family trauma and the sanctity of friendship, fashioning an intriguing drama shaped by conflict, obsession, guilt and grief. Andrea and Loretta’s relationship is beautifully complicated, giving the novel a natural tension that portends a difficult resolution. The author intimates without exposing, setting up her protagonist for a surprising denouement. Revealing the nature of intimacy and obsession, Andrea’s selfish motivations impose burdens that cannot be sustained.
Both writer and artist exist on the edge of their interior worlds, where the creativity draws from life. The natural boundaries, once breeched, have no defense against the urgency of the creative process. What is grist for Andrea’s artistic endeavors and growing body of work is also vulnerable to intrusion. This self-involved artist must face the consequences of her actions and be prepared to pay the price of indiscretion.