Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Painting Juliana by Martha Louise Hunter

Title: Painting Juliana
Author: Martha Louise Hunter
Genre: Women's Fiction/Contemporary
Publisher: Goldminds Publishing LLC
Release Date: April 24/2014
Acquired: Print copy provided by Publisher
Goodreads: ADD

Juliana Birdsong is your typical eight-year-old with an obsessive-compulsive mother who's too paranoid to leave the house. Making double-lined, black-out drapes to protect their home from the outside world, her mother only looks up from her sewing machine when Perry Mason comes on TV - the type of successful man Juliana should marry if she wants to get anywhere in life.

But Juliana has other things to worry about. Night after night, she's awakened by a terrifying dream where she's chased down a long, tapering highway on the back of her father's motorcycle heading for an enormous, twisting funnel cloud that waits on the horizon. Even after locking it away inside her bedside drawer, Juliana wonders if there are parts of the dream she hasn't seen yet. Years later, she finds dynamic trial lawyer, Oliver Morrissey and she marries him for love. Life is going reasonably well for the priviledged socialite - that is, until she's faced with losing everything, including her children.

Stepping out of her Lexus, Juliana peels off her Chanel sunglasses and glares up at her childhood home that's now smothered in ivy. Inside, there's only her estranged father left, who she's sure caused her mother's death. Moving in, she discovers a nude portrait of her with an odd set of tiny red footprints on the ankle, and another surprise she's not expecting: Her father has Alzheimer's and he needs her. Plus, a shipment of mysterious oil paintings arrives, all with his signature. When Juliana puts a brush in his hand, it sets off a surreal time warp and the canvases eerily transform, painting a different picture of the parents she thought she knew.

As tragic secrets emerge that mirror her own, Juliana's old demons come back to haunt her. Consumed with his care and desperate for her old life back, the dream is still chasing her and it's catching up fast. Just when she can't run any faster, the funnel cloud is waiting on the horizon, twisting even faster than before.


Painting Juliana was a realistic take on the horrors and anxiety-inducing moments that divorce so kindly provides. I haven't been through a divorce myself (and I pray to whoever is listening that I won't ever have to), but I am definitely the product of it, and I'll tell you this: it truly is the children who suffer most. Martha Louise Hunter hit the nail on the head in that respect, but sadly, fell so far from the mark in other ways that mattered. Descriptions were lengthy, the dialogue was more comical than, I'm sure, was intended, and I just couldn't find it in me to sympathize with the main character.

That is quite the lengthy synopsis up there, and pretty much throws out every key point in the novel so I will refrain from reiterating. The opening chapter of Painting Juliana was a task for me, the rehashing of a childhood nightmare was winded and too wordy—I would have felt more, with less. As we enter the present day, we're introduced to the catalyst for the narrative: Juliana's husband has served her divorce papers and wants her completely out of both his and their children's lives. What ensues is a campaign for Juliana to regain her life—it becomes a fight to not only get back her children, but a valiant effort to fill in the gaps that were made when she was busy playing rich, and privileged, housewife. 

I found Juliana to be insufferable. I loathed her rat bastard husband, Oliver, and couldn't help but work up some very real anger as I compared him to some people that, unfortunately, exist in my own life. However, even after the proverbial crap hit the fan, I still couldn't attach any emotion or empathy to Juliana, or her situation. It wasn't for lack of trying, because there were parts of this novel that was hard to ignore—Martha Louise Hunter definitely writes to entertain, but it all felt a little too desperate housewives for me. The added element of the time-warp paintings was, honestly, the only thing that helped me stick around. I was fascinated by the possible magic of it all, it was a much-needed intermission between the somewhat cheesy and juvenile dialogue.


"Oh, shit. It's my dad. And, man, is he pissed off."

One would think that I stole that line from the mouth of Juliana's 14-year-old son, Adam. Maybe his dad caught him smoking. Maybe he didn't clean his room. One would think that, but it wasn't. That one came from Juliana herself. Who is 40-years-old. She is describing her elderly father, who is on his way out of his house in a rage, hell-bent on threatening her husband, who has come by to taunt her.

This story is one that can help garner a lot of hope, and possibly strength, in women who have been through similar situations. Though, be prepared for some serious eye-rolling. Painting Juliana definitely wasn't for me.

Read if you like:
Women's Fiction, Contemporary, Sarah Addison Allen.



Martha Louise Hunter has an English degree from the University of Texas. After writing magazine features, working in politics and owning home building and interior design companies, she now has an estate jewelry collection, With four children between them, she and her husband, David live in Austin, Texas.

Painting Juliana was awarded finalist in the Writers League of Texas Mainstream Fiction Contest. This is her first novel.

Contact Links:

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Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Goldminds Publishing for sending me a print copy to review! CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour.

1 comment:

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