Book Excerpt: Veronica’s Nap by Sharon Bially

VERONICA’S NAP, by Sharon Bially, Connaissance Media, 244 pp., $14.00.

Veronica Berg has everything she needs to achieve her dream of becoming a painter including a charming home studio in Provence, a hard-working husband and a nanny who watches her two-year-old twins.  Yet instead of painting she spends her days secretly indulging in lengthy naps.  When her Moroccan-born, Sephardic husband grows impatient and challenges her to sell one painting, Veronica must find a way to break out of the seductive rut that’s overtaken her life.  Against the backdrop of the impending Iraq war, her journey reveals depression’s sunny mask and the dark side of privilege and security.  With a cast of Moroccan, Sephardic characters, Veronica’s Nap also gives a rare look at contemporary Jewish life in France.

BOOK EXCERPT

After three years in Aix-en-Provence, Veronica knows why Van Gogh cut off his ear. On sunny days, when the sky glows a shade of sapphire as brilliant, she imagines, as the color of God’s eyes, the mistral wind rips apart the beauty, howling with rage, rattling olives from branches and whipping the feathery tips of cypress trees into demented, evergreen whorls. Gates and steel shutters clang madly. The pitch of conversation rises to a scream. It’s a wonder that with these gales that batter southeast France year-round and have been blowing relentlessly for three days straight now, he could paint at all. Veronica hasn’t cracked open an easel since she moved here from New Jersey.

Of course, Van Gogh didn’t have two-year-old twins like Veronica does. Their whiny, high-pitched voices shatter the rare silence between the mistral’s gusts, grating on her nerves, setting her on edge, and making it impossible to concentrate, even when they’re not around. With twins, Van Gogh would have surely cut both his ears off.

He didn’t have a French-Moroccan husband, either—Sephardic, to boot, with a warm heart but a hot, Mediterranean temper—who’s been waiting with thinning patience to see some progress in the studio. This alone can kill the nerves, Veronica thinks. Didier rarely voices his impatience, but from the way his gaze has darted away lately when she’s tried to meet it, she knows. Just as she knows that his edginess these days over her parenting style has more to do with her painting, or lack of it, than it does with the all-too-American habits she’s teaching the kids.

– Excerpt from Veronica’s Nap by Sharon Bially

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