I have a soft spot for books that make me weep openly in public, and that’s exactly what Susan Gloss’s beautiful new novel, The Curiosities, did.
Set in Madison, WI, The Curiosities introduces us to a cast of memorable characters, each at a breaking point in his or her own way. At the center of the story is Nell Parker, who has nothing to show for her long and painful road of fertility treatments except for a well of grief and a pile of debt. In an attempt to rechannel her energy–and pay off those mounting bills she’s been hiding from her husband–Nell leverages her PhD in art history into a new position: director of a recently launched artists’ colony in a stately waterfront mansion. Established by philanthropist Betsy Barrett in her final days, Nell is charged with executing the late benefactor’s mission to host three burgeoning artists as they work on their craft. The motley crew consists of grieving metal worker Odin Sorenson, angst-ridden college student Paige Jewell, and one-time famed photographer and activist Annie Beck. Over the course of the residency, the lives and struggles of Nell, the artists, and their deceased patron become interwoven, revealing the universal nature of tragedy, love, and the power of art, even in places where you’d least expect to find it.
Susan Gloss does a remarkable job of creating five distinct protagonists, gracing each one with the complex balance of fragility and strength. Through the alternating points of view and shifting timelines, I only became more and more invested in the story’s threads and loved seeing how they all tied together. A true work of art, the novel draws from a full palette of emotions—from sadness and hope to the weight of lost dreams and the possibility of new beginnings. Gloss handles the painful experience of loss with care and honesty, and seamlessly blends moments of despair with rays of light. I savored my time with these characters from the instant I met them until the pitch perfect ending, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since. The Curiosities is a book I will not forget.
If you’re looking for a heartfelt read that will make you smile, make you cry, make you feel, and make you think, pick up a copy of The Curiosities and get ready to soak in the quiet strokes of beauty painted on every page.
For more on Susan Gloss and her novels, visit susangloss.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Susan is a member of the talented Tall Poppy Writers, who write wonderful books and host the best bookish block party on the internet in their Facebook group, Bloom!