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"Painting the Light" | Reviewed by Susan Ferguson

“Painting the Light,” by Sally Cabot Gunning, is a historical fiction novel of love and loss, a character driven story narrated by Ida Russell Pease.

In 1893, Ida Russell is a budding artist attending Boston’s renowned Museum School, which is unheard of for a woman. But Ida’s life and dreams are forever changed when she meets, then marries, the charming Ezra Pease.

For five years, the couple lives in Martha’s Vineyard, working as sheep farmers. Ezra also had a salvage business that frequently takes him to Boston. But more and more of the sheep farming falls on Ida and their part-time helper Lem.

Ida’s life is turned upside down in 1898 when Ezra shows up late for Thanksgiving dinner, an occasion that included his doting Aunt Ruth and Cousin Hattie. He then abruptly leaves saying he has business to attend to in Boston with his partner Mose Barstow. They are to sail to Boston on The Portland. Tragically, a storm hits and the ship sinks with no survivors; Ezra and Mose are presumed dead.

Mose’s brother Henry helps Ida settle the estate; that’s when Ida discovers the truth about Ezra’s business dealings. Henry and Ida realize that Ezra has been lying to Ida for years, that he has been involved in illegal practices that have left Ida broke and destitute. Now she must find a way to survive.

With help from Henry, Ida not only learns how to survive financially but also to become the painter she’s always dreamed of becoming.

I found it inspiring to read about Ida, a strong woman who faced many obstacles. Readers will root for her, like I did, hoping she succeeds and finally finds happiness.

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