Note: I received a free copy of this memoir in exchange for a review.
The Painting and the Piano tells the story of John "Johnny" Lipscomb and Adrianne "Ady" Lugo. The memoir, divided into scenes, shows how the tragedies that we encounter as children can linger on into adult lives - no matter how we try to escape from them, they can come back to haunt us unless we have the tools to deal with them. However, at the risk of telling a story of heartbreak, let me reassure you that there is always hope.
Adrianne lives in foster care, a very happy life until the agency from which she was fostered comes along with news; the biological parents want to visit Adrianne. Reluctantly, the foster parents agree. Sadly, it does not stop there. It's a long, slippery slide until a court grants Herb and Elaine, Adrianne's biological parents, the right to take their daughter back. Adrianne can never admit to Herb and Elaine being her parents, however. Despite Herb's genuine efforts, Adrianne keeps asking when she can go home. Elaine presents as a monster - abusive, cruel, and almost tyrannical, Adrianne finds as many things as she can do to escape the disgusting flat she's been forced into. It isn't until a teacher at her school notices her bruises that her story begins to turn around.
Johnny was caught up in a similarly horrible custody battle, forced to lived with his alcoholic mother and step-father. What starts as a few drinks as a teenager turns into a years-long battle with alcoholism.
We meet Adrianne and Johnny again as adults, both battling addiction, both finding solace in each other from unhappy marriages.
If not for the ending of this book I would still be in turmoil now. Both Johnny and Adrianne have such a way with words that you are there, in their homes, watching the scenes unfold, and you are in their heads, willing things to be okay but heartbroken and frustrated that they cannot be, due to the unfair laws of the land. I found Adrianne's story most particularly affecting, not least in Elaine's cruel choices and determination to keep her from the people whom she really loves and whom really love her.
Though heart-wrenching throughout, there are great messages of hope in this memoir. Addiction can be overcome. There are always people who want to help and who want to love. Finding friends and family, whether blood or no, who can support you, is more valuable than any amount of wealth or supposed financial security. It's definitely something that, at the risk of sounding cheesy, will make you reach out to your nearest and dearest.