Visions of Johanna
Well-written with deeply complex characters and many different beautiful settings, Peter Sarno’s Visions of Johanna is worth reading more than once. Written very much like a memoir, Sarno introduces his reader to Matthew Domenico, a music critic and aspiring writer of many things. One day, while covering the Bob Dylan concert in Hartford, Matt sees a small woman carrying a rather large painting. After helping her with it, they start a conversation, and he learns that her name is Johanna Beaumont, and she is an artist. Throughout this book, well-known artists, musicians, and art pieces are brought up along with historical sites. Music from Kate Bush to Debbie Harry to Debbie Gibson is referenced in the book. And all of these subjects become topics of philosophical conversation between characters. This back-and-forth banter really brought the book and the characters to life. One could imagine chiming right in with one’s opinion. Matt and Johanna strike up a friendship and eventually end up in a romantic relationship. The intimacy between the two is more than just physical. However, both characters are so unsure about their futures, both individually and as a couple. Matt is in Boston, and Johanna, New York. And although they spend most weekends together, clearly, there is something missing. This book really helps the reader get into Matt’s head. Several of the chapters take the reader back in time to when Matt was a child growing up into a teen and then later into adulthood. His family, which included his mother, father, brother Orlando, and sister Francesca, had complicated family dynamics just like any other family. The author learns that Matt’s upbringing was not the easiest, which is why he may have some commitment and trust issues in relationships. The book spans several years and takes the reader through the many different emotions and experiences Matt has and goes through: love, heartbreak, mental illness of a loved one, abuse of a friend, and tragedy.
I really enjoyed the discussion questions at the end of the book and feel this would be a perfect book club book. With questions that address the concepts of faith and hope to the efforts put towards the women’s movement, there is a lot that can be talked about in this book. Detailed, wonderfully written, and thought-provoking, Visions of Johanna will have readers thinking long after they put the book down.
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