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Paint in Black    by Janet Fitch order for
Paint in Black
by Janet Fitch
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Maybe it's unfair, but a second book released by an author will often be judged against her first book, especially if the first one was a runaway hit. I absolutely loved Janet Fitch's first novel, White Oleander, which was chosen by Oprah for her famous Book Club, for its lyrical prose and intriguing subject matter. However, I was not as impressed with Paint It Black, though it does have many good points.

The story takes place in LA in the early 1980s and revolves around Josie, a twenty-year old girl from the 'wrong side of the tracks.' She is involved in LA's 'punk scene,' uses drugs, and is more or less a lost soul. Her boyfriend Michael is her polar opposite: he grew up with money and had all the advantages; his parents are both famous. Michael leaves a prestigious school to pursue art; he meets Josie who is a model for an art class. When Michael inexplicably commits suicide, Josie and Michael's mother Meredith, both bound and torn apart by grief, become entangled in a psychologically destructive relationship.

As girlfriend and mother get to know each other, Josie's memories of Michael are called into question as she delves into his past, and she learns some unsettling truths. Josie, whose self-esteem was wrapped up in Michael's love for her, questions whether his love was real if he was able to hide so much about himself.

The writing is gritty (not to mention full of expletives) and insightful; Fitch is an excellent writer - she offers interesting perspectives about grief and the nature of love - but the story just did not come together for me in the same way as White Oleander.

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