05 Jun / The Love Ceiling: A Novel by Jean Davies Okimoto
Just to see what I might find, I went through the books I’ve included thus far and among almost 400 entries, I couldn’t find more than a handful of titles that have an older protagonist. As the over-65 population in the U.S. has been the largest it’s ever been in history, how ironic that the publishing industry doesn’t offer more choices starring older characters. We’ll all be that old some day (god willing, of course, and some of us sooner than later, ahem!). But maybe it’s just me? Might I have unconsciously overlooked books with older protagonists? Anyone out there with suggestions, do send them along …
In the meantime, meet Annie Kuroda Duppstadt, our 64-year-old heroine. Hers is not an easy lineage. Her beloved mother was a Japanese American whose family survived the Japanese American prison camps during World War II, only to disinherit their daughter for marrying a white man – who quickly proves himself an unfortunate choice. Annie’s father, the great and glorious world-renowned artist, Alexander Gunther, is abusive, spiteful, and incurably self-absorbed. Enabled by both a near-silent wife and an equally spineless daughter, he’s been able to remain an enfant terrible even into his 80s.
With the death of her mother, Annie finally realizes that she doesn’t have to live what’s left of her own life in the shadow of others: “There is a glass ceiling for women,” she tells her husband Jack … “And it’s made out of the people we love.” As a daughter, sister, wife, and mother, Annie’s always put others’ needs above her own. For the first time in too many decades, she’s determined to reclaim her own imagination and artistry, gifts that her father did his best to destroy.
No surprise: Annie can paint … and others readily recognize her growing abilities, as well. Somehow, between the daughter whose lost her cheating lover (good riddance already), the absent son with the shallow wife but adorable grandson, and the well-meaning but whining husband who can’t seem to make peace with his impending retirement, Annie must literally find a room of her own and start giving light to those waiting blank canvases.
To watch Annie reclaim herself makes for a swift read. But watching her suffer fools and abusers becomes grating by book’s end. At one point, Annie comments about how her relationship with her husband got stuck in the Leave It to Beaver 1950s. You can only cheer her along when she finally realizes she has a few rights to some expectations of her own! Go, Annie, go!