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Paperback Book Details
  • 06/2021
  • 9781647421168 B08DK9VQ4V
  • 264 pages
  • $16.95
Blooming in Winter: The Story of a Remarkable Twentieth-Century Woman
Pam Valois, author
When Pam Valois met her in the 1970s, Jacomena (Jackie) Maybeck was a model of zestful, hands-on living and aging, still tarring roofs and splitting logs in her seventies, and Pam was a young working mother trying to carve out time for creative projects. Jackie became her mentor, and their friendship led to a best-selling book, Gifts of Age, that features portraits of Jackie and other exemplary women in the winter of their lives. Decades later, when Pam and her husband bought Jackie’s home, she realized that she knew little about her mentor’s fascinating life. What had shaped and supported Jackie in living “at full tilt” until her death at ninety-five? Blooming in Winter tells this tale—a story that stretches from Java to a magical house designed by Jackie’s famous father-in-law, Bernard Maybeck, chronicling her early years as an immigrant and ranch girl and later as a bohemian, mother of twins, ceramicist, and widow, and, ultimately, the steward of the Maybeck legacy. Along the way, Jackie became an old woman who lived with grace and aplomb. Her uncommon approach to life encourages us to reflect on our own lives and what it looks like to live exuberantly to the very end.
Reviews
Expanding on a biographical sketch from her book Gifts of Age: Portraits and Essays of 32 Remarkable Women, Valois tenderly maps the legacy of Jacomena van Huizen Maybeck (known as Jackie), a potter and Valois’s landlord who maintained many real-estate properties in Berkeley, California. Valois organizes this charming study into four sections tied to the seasons, each fitting a phase of Maybeck’s life. "Spring" details her early years in Java and her family's subsequent move to America in 1907. The following chapters examine Maybeck's tryst with and marriage to Wallen Maybeck, plus motherhood and her creative pursuits all set against the turmoil of World Wars and the Great Depression. It’s in "Winter," though, that the story becomes fascinating. Navigating widowhood and grappling with the onset of old age, Maybeck embraces her independence and freely explores all artistic inquiries—reveling in what others might think of as the declining years. In Valois’s persuasive treatment, Maybeck’s enterprising undertakings, and her exchanges with family and friends, suggest she bloomed in the late chapters of her life.

Soul-bearing letters, pictures from Maybeck's albums, and anecdotes from acquaintances of the family bring Valois’s subject to life and honor her heritage, while detailed endnotes, appendices, and a bibliography are testament to the author’s dedicated research. For all that rigor, Valois offers crisp prose, suffused with poignant observations and dry humor: Maybeck preferred the term “Lady of the Land” to landlady. Valois’s style is sincere and affecting, attentive to nuance; she eschews the literary or academic and in favor of Maybeck’s sensibilities.

Many themes abound within these pages, and at times Valois’s attention shifts away from what readers may find most compelling. Some discussions of architecture border on the tedious, compromising the pacing. Nevertheless, the book remains a reverential celebration of a feisty woman with a zest for growth, art, community, and dynamic living.

Takeaway: This careful consideration of an extraordinary life emphasizes creative expression and the strength of womanhood.

Great for fans of: Nancy Princenthal’s Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art, Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 06/2021
  • 9781647421168 B08DK9VQ4V
  • 264 pages
  • $16.95

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