Slow Reveal by Melanie Mitzner is a unique story about family, relationships, art and life. Katherine, a film editor, is in an open marriage with Jonathan, an artist whose work was panned for being “too political.” She is also in a long-term love affair with Naomi, a successful poet who has been kept out of Katherine’s family life, and in particular, the lives of her two now-adult children. The story is also about these two children: Ellie, an artist like her father, and Brigitte, a possibly budding writer who struggles with drug dependency. The reader meets other characters such as Jonathan’s father and sister, Katherine’s brother, and an assortment of people who circulate in and out of our main characters’ lives.
The setting of the novel is New York City in the nineties, and the author’s depiction of this time and place is both understated and convincing, comparing favourably with usual “sweep past the Empire State Building, peek at the Brooklyn Bridge, flash on Times Square” approach of some who place their stories in the city of my birth. Likewise, Mitzner’s characters are portrayed in a way that is both realistic—including selfish thoughts and deeds—and kind. We see how people faced with struggles including the death of a loved one, mental health, betrayal, financial instability, and loss of intimacy still manage to keep going, and in some cases, to continue making art with integrity.
One difficulty I had with the novel was all the head-jumping. One moment you were in the thoughts of a certain character, and the next moment, without warning, you were in another’s. For this reader, the result was confusion rather than a sharpening of the characterizations, and a feeling of always being a little behind the ball since it took a moment or two to figure out in which point-of-view we were now immersed. On the other hand, this approach created a kind of collage or mosaic effect, which helped to nicely reinforce thematics around art and connectedness.
I strongly recommend this novel, especially to readers who enjoy LBGTQ+ stories, stories about art and politics, urban fiction, and novels about family and relationships.