When Annie’s mother falls into a coma after a car accident, Annie finds herself entering the lighthouse paintings of Newfoundland painter Maisie King and speaking with Maisie’s daughter, Claire. Annie and Claire both have complicated relationships with their mothers, and Annie begins to suspect that helping Claire solve her problems will help Annie’s own mother recover in the hospital.
The Painting explores the consequences of when parents and children fail to communicate and find themselves understanding the world in dramatically different ways. It might be a slightly heavy topic for a middle-grade novel, but it is also one that many young readers might identify with. Importantly, the book also explores avenues of healing, though it takes some roundabout turns to get there due to the convoluted nature of the plot. Annie’s journeys through the lighthouse paintings and her meetings with an old, wise woman no one else can see almost seem unnecessary to convey the book’s message about family, and ultimately the relationship between the magic and the healing of Annie’s mother is unclear. However, young readers may enjoy the mystery and the magic of being able to enter an alternate world.