Today’s Book: Paint It Black, by Janet Fitch

After the sweeping success of White Oleander (and the movie starring Alison Lohman and Michelle Pfeiffer), the literary world watched in wonder to see what author Janet Fitch would present next. She did not disappoint. Paint It Black is the story of Josie Tyrell, an artists’ model from ‘way, ‘way over on the other side of the tracks, who falls in love with artist Michael Faraday, the wealthy son of a renowned pianist. But when Michael commits suicide, taking away the rose-coloured mirror of his love, Josie is left to question whether the ‘self’ she offers to the world is worthwhile.
This is not a whodunit. The mystery buried within this masterwork is a subtle one, as Josie is compelled to discover the root of Michael’s suffering. What she finds is that the special bond between a mother and son can sometimes be malignant.
Having lost a sister to suicide, I am sensitive to the trappings of melodrama and generalisation that can mar discussions of this issue. Fitch’s portrayal of the situation is both flawless and heartbreakingly human. She does not bury her dead, but conveys with breathtaking assurance that Michael remains a character to be reckoned with.
Paint It Black is not for the faint of heart. However, for the reader who is touched by the sheer poetry and poignancy of life, this book must be inhaled deeply and felt from the inside.
Donna Carrick, February 23, 2007