The French Impressionist
Publication date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Rosemary is fifteen and gloriously free, on her own for the very first time. Part of an exchange program for aspiring artists, she arrives in sunny southern France with a single goal: she doesn’t plan to leave, ever. She wants a new life, a new family, and a new identity. But her situation, crafted from lies big and small, is precarious.
Desperate to escape haunting images from her past and a stage one helicopter parent, Rosemary struggles to hide her lack of artistic talent and a communication disorder that has tormented her all her life. She believes her dream of a new start will come true, until she unwittingly finds herself enveloped in a decades-old mystery that threatens to ruin her only chance for success. Determined to stay, Rosemary must choose whether or not she’ll tell the biggest lie of all, even if it means destroying the life of someone she cares about.
Dramatic, heartwarming, and full of teenage angst, The French Impressionist perfectly captures the struggle of those who feel they have no voice, and also shows the courage it takes to speak up and show the world who we really are.
I look around. My room, my beautiful new room, has forests and oceans and mountains painted all over the walls. It has stars and planets on the ceiling. A mustard-colored rug spattered with paint sits on the floor. On the bed is a vivid quilt that’s a kaleidoscope of colors. The room has a window that looks out over redtiled roofs and palm trees. It even has a cat! Amber eyes glow up at me from the puff of grey fluff resting on the rug. I was never allowed to have a pet. I stare at the pile of grey fur for a second, not sure what to do. Will it chase me from its territory? But the puffball simply closes its yellowy eyes and goes to sleep. I turn back, close the blue-painted door, and stare at the knob. There’s no lock. On this side or on the other side. It’s perfect. A couple of tears spill down my face, but I swipe them away. My new life just started, and I’m going to live it. I’m going to head back down to the shop and get to know my new family. But when I grasp the doorknob, I stop. I don’t want to leave just yet. I turn to check out the room one more time, straining a little to see the murals as the light from the window changes from bright to dim. Outside, clouds cover the sun and a summer storm spatters rain onto the glass. I don’t bother to turn on the light, though. I know this room well already. I walk along the walls, tracing the paintings with a gentle finger. The photo of this room on Sylvie’s blog was what started it all. It’s part of the reason that I’m here and why I chose Sylvie and Émile to be my new family. The mural at the head of the bed is my favorite. A trail curves through a forest, then up the side of a steep canyon, where it angles back and forth in sharp switchbacks. Every so often, along the trail is a boy who carries a backpack and walking stick. The boy, lanky and brown like Sylvie, gradually grows taller. It’s their son, Ansel, now gone. He painted himself somewhere on the trail each year for his birthday. The figure at the very top of the cliff is Ansel at eighteen, heading to Paris. He’s smiling and pumping a fist into the air. I kiss my fingers and touch them to the painted boy’s tiny head. “Thank you, Ansel,” I whisper. I couldn’t be here if he weren’t gone. “I promise I’ll take care of the room for you.” A gleam of light glows on the wall a few feet away. I jerk my hand back in surprise. Painted on the other side of Ansel’s cliff is a wide expanse of stormy sky over a dark ocean. Streaks of bright lightning cross the gloomy haze, but one line of lightning extends downward in a straight line, cutting through sky and cloud until it plunges into the ocean. I move closer until my nose is practically against the paint and stare. The straight line, of course, isn’t painted lightning. It’s a crack in the wall, one so deep that light from the next room shines through it. Then, before I can even begin to wonder, the crack disappears. What just happened?
Rebecca Bischoff currently resides in Idaho with her family and works as a speech-language pathologist. She loves helping others, especially kids and teenagers, discover their own unique voices and learn to share who they are with the world. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, spend time with her kids, and make awkward attempts to learn foreign languages. She is drawn to all things both French and Italian, used bookstores, and anything made out of chocolate.