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Poet Michael White, reeling from an ongoing divorce and custody battle, visits the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and unexpectedly discovers the consoling power of Johannes Vermeer’s radiant vision in The Milkmaid.
“A certain chain of events has left me open, on a startlingly deep level, to Vermeer’s gaze, to his meditation on our place on earth,” he writes. “Vermeer’s hushed clarity addresses me, is for me, as I stand here now.” Over the next year, White undertakes a kind of pilgrimage—to The Hague; Delft; Washington, D. C.; New York; and London—viewing twenty-four paintings in all, including most of Vermeer’s major works.
Part travelogue, part soul-searching meditation on love and an intimate discourse on art, this erudite, lyrical memoir encompasses the author’s past—his difficult youth, alcoholism and recovery, and the early death of his cherished first wife—as well as the present. At the end of his travels in Vermeer, the future awaits, where “nothing is certain except that everything is changed.”