On a whim, several years ago, I picked up Suzanne Strempek Shea's Becoming Finola. The cover was pretty and the plot sounded interesting. I ended up loving the book and went on to read most of Shea's other novels. Sheas' Hoopi Shoopi Donna made me cry--and I don't cry easily while reading. So I went into her Lily of the Valley expecting tears. Instead, I ended up not caring about the narrator, Lily, or her story.
Lily is an artist who chose to stay in a small town, not doing much. Her big break comes when the richest lady in town asks her to make a painting of her family--but her family is all dead and Lily has to use old photographs to create the portrait. So the book goes back and forth, into Lily's past, as well as the rich old lady's. There isn't much of a plot to the book, other than Lily working on the painting.
One Amazon reviewer sad the book made her slightly depressed--and I can see why. Lily is 39, divorced, living in a little apartment in a small town, mainly doing grunt artwork to survive. She doesn't appear to have much ambition to do anything else, so my pity was pretty darn low. At the end, the "moral" of the book is that you choose your family, blah blah blah (can you tell I thought it was a bit preachy and overdone?). Evidently that makes poor, single Lily feel better--yeah, so it's clear I didn't think much of Lily or her art. At least no tears were shed.