The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A piano appears on the lawn one week after seventeen-year-old Mercedes Moreno’s mother has left for Puerto Rico to watch over her abuela, lying in a coma. Mercedes and her fourteen-year-old sister, Angela, wait for their mother’s return in Sarasota and try to the best of it. But it’s not easy. Her sister becomes better and better on the piano they keep in the living room, growing as a musician, while Mercedes is unsure of what to paint, or why or how she’ll create anything of artist merit since her award-winning piece last year.
That she’s fallen in love with her best friend Victoria and keeping it a secret might have something to do with her lack of inspiration. A mysterious new tenant moves in with the neighbor they share a porch with. Her name is Lilia Solis. She’s also Latina, and a painter, and seems to live in an entirely different world. Lilia works to move Mercedes out of limbo, toward her next work of art, asking questions and sharing her own work.
Mercedes wishes she could return to the feeling of being on the brink of creation, “a little like falling in love.” When Lilia introduces Mercedes to the Red Mangrove Estate, a beachfront artist’s community where the artists can “be their best selves”, she spends more and more time there, meeting other artists, in a whirlwind of dreamy creation, where Tricia’s deepest secrets spill forth, while her sister spends time upstairs playing piano like a virtuoso. They both want to stay and live in endless creation.
An absorbing, and beautifully written in a way you’re sure you’ve entered another dimension, blurring the lines of reality in this delightful magical realism, that had me racing through, so I could get to painting and playing music too! I’m pretty sure I burst into magical tears in the last chapter. This book was that inspiring. The relationship between Victoria and Mercedes is warm and tender and very loving. (Positive bisexual representation.) Readers 13 and up.
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