THE ART OF TRAVELING STRANGERS | Kirkus Reviews
Claire Markham’s life collapses almost all at once. When her marriage to Kurt begins to get crushed under the weight of emotional conflicts, she sees therapist Alec McPherson and falls in love with him. But Alec is a married man with children and has no plans to leave his wife. Claire now finds herself a single mom, separated from Kurt and dumped by Alec. And to make matters worse, her mother suddenly dies, an event that crystallizes Claire’s time of despair, a despondency poignantly depicted by Disigny. But Claire is given an opportunity for a reprieve from her troubles. She is an art history professor, and one of her students, the fabulously wealthy Viv Chancey, pays her to serve as a private art instructor on a European tour that includes Milan, Venice, and Paris. Viv anticipates the trip with “unbridled excitement,” and Claire views it with “paralyzing doubts.” The journey is fraught with difficulties—Viv is not all that interested in art and seems saddled by her own family struggles and a devastating anxiety, though she is reluctant to candidly discuss either. The author’s command of the history of European art is formidable, and readers are treated to an impressively astute tour of it. In addition, the plot is as eventful as it is companionably sweet and maintains a buoyantly brisk pace. But the novel is overflowing with many of the clichés of the contemporary bildungsroman—Claire’s trajectory to self-realization and emotional closure is timeworn. Still, readers in search of something both easily digestible and intelligent—especially something brimming with artistic insights—will find this tale satisfying.