Looking for a book set somewhere other than small town USA? Then pick up a copy of Tea Cooper’s The Girl in the Painting which takes place in Australia, 1860s and 1910s.

This dual time novel is an interesting story that follows Irish Immigrant Michael O’Cuinn from London, England to the gold mines of Australia in the 1860s. Tragedy strikes his family more than once and as the story progresses we see how family means everything to Michael. His compassion for others is quite evident, and it’s that compassion that creates a bond stronger than blood relations between characters.

Jane Piper is an orphan who has an incredible talent for numbers. In the contemporary time line (1910s Australia) she is taken in by Michael and his sister. She blossoms under Elizabeth’s tutelage. When Jane and Elizabeth visit a special art exhibition, the story begins to unwind in a crazy kind of spiral that reveals our characters are not who we think they are and that their past is quite different than readers are led to believe.

The story begins slow, but sets the foundation for the last half of the novel. The painting for which the book is titled, doesn’t make an appearance until mid-way through the story. It’s this painting that sets off a bizarre series of events that keeps the reader engaged.

There is a great deal discussed about the Chinese faith in the historical story line, though very little is mentioned about the Christian faith. Catholicism plays a slight role in the historical setting. Not much is mentioned in the way of faith in the contemporary story. This is more of a clean read than one with a strong faith thread.

Despite the slow progression in the beginning, the persevering reader will be rewarded with a story that examines the true meaning of family and overcoming hardship for the sake of others.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.