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Feast Your Eyes Summary & Study Guide

Myla Goldberg
This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Feast Your Eyes.
This section contains 985 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Feast Your Eyes Summary & Study Guide Description

Feast Your Eyes Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Goldberg, Myla. Feast Your Eyes. Scribner/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2019.

In Feast Your Eyes, Samantha Jane Preston retraces the life and work of her mother Lillian Preston through a catalogue of photographs on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Over the course of the novel, Sam uses her mother's photographs to locate an entrance into her enigmatic mother's artistic inspirations and private life.

After Lillian discovers her affinity for photography in high school, she defies her parents and moves from Ohio to New York City to pursue her artistic future at The New School. In the city, Lillian struggles to acclimate. After meeting Patricia Stokes, the two find an apartment together. While Lillian devotes herself thoroughly to her art, Patricia grows frustrated with Lillian's hermetic tendencies. Instead of pursuing a social life similar to Patricia's, Lillian retreats into her photography, filled with wonder at all the city has to offer her active creative mind. At the same time, Lillian writes to her increasingly illusive high school beau, Sam Becker, deployed in Korea. Shortly after giving up on their fruitless relationship, her friendship with Patricia fractures and she moves into a solo space.

In her new apartment, Lillian meets the vivacious and generous Deborah Brodsky. While living in the same building, the two build a beautiful and lasting kinship. Deborah is inspired by Lillian's work, encourages her photography, and teaches Lillian the importance of close friendship. Through Deb's artist soirees, Lillian makes friends and becomes a part of an artistic community. Just prior to dropping out of her courses at The New School, Lillian meets Charles. While the two are intimate, Lillian quickly disillusioned with the relationship and breaks it off. She discovers she is pregnant not long after. Though she considers an abortion, she ultimately decides to keep the child. Deb supports her decision throughout. Though Lillian's parents demand she return to Ohio and give the baby up for adoption, Lillian resists. She delivers Samantha Jane Preston safely. She also experiences a simultaneous artistic break when her work is featured at a library exhibit.

While Sam is still a baby and Lillian is working at a bookstore, she meets Kenneth Lowell. The two begin an intimate relationship. Even Deb notes how different Ken seems from other men. He falls almost instantly with both Lillian and Sam. After a few months of practically living in Lillian's apartment with her, Ken buys a house in Brooklyn and asks her to move in with him. Lillian agrees. Shortly after the move, Deb relocates to California. The friends continue to keep up through letters.

Over the course of Sam's early childhood, Ken begins to realize he wants more from Lillian. He proposes and suggests they have a second child together. While Lillian cares deeply for Ken, she realizes she cannot compromise her independence and art. They live in tension for some time before Lillian reveals she is pregnant and plans to have an abortion. The declaration infuriates Ken and leads to their ultimate split. Lillian and Sam move in temporarily with their new friend Grete and her daughter Kaja. When Lillian explains the situation to Sam, she is devastated to learn Ken is not her father.

Lillian goes through with the abortion with Grete's response. In the weeks following her recovery, she returns to work and eventually secures a new home for her and Sam. All the while she fiercely pursues her photography. After meeting Nina, owner of the Lacuna Gallery, Nina creates an exhibit of Lillian's photos, specifically featuring The Samantha Series, a grouping of eight intimate photos of Sam and Lillian. The show receives poor attention and the police arrest Nina and Lillian for obscenity and the exploitation of a minor.

Lillian's time in jail, as well as the onslaught of media and legal attention, significantly disrupts her sense of internal and external peace. The publicity also leads to Sam's harassment at school. Tired of her the role her mother's art plays in her life, Sam demands her mother never photograph her again, cuts her hair, and changes her name to Jane. Lillian grows distraught with the distance forming between her and her daughter. Even after the court case settles, their relationship remains fractured, Jane increasingly difficult to reach.

During the legal affair, Grete contacts Lillian's parents to tell them about their granddaughter. The family reconnects and Jane begins spending summers with her once estranged grandparents. As tensions rise at home in New York, Jane begins to consider taking her grandparents up on their offer to live with them for good. When Lillian learns of their interference, Lillian cuts ties.

The family does not fully make amends until Lillian grows ill. After the doctors diagnose her with leukemia and hospitalize her, Lillian decides to move back to Ohio with Jane to be closer to treatment in Detroit. Lillian repairs her relationship with her parents in the months prior to her remission and her father's death. Jane leaves for college in Los Angeles, grateful for the opportunity to reinvent herself outside her family network and her mother's artistic identity. While in L.A. she reveals her connection to Lillian and gains attention and popularity. Through her boyfriend Leo, Jane ends up at the house of the man who has purchased The Samantha Series. Furious that her mother never told her she sold the photographs, Jane cuts ties with Lillian.

Lillian falls ill again and is unable to contact her daughter. In her final days she makes peace with her past, even photographing her death. Sam does not find out about her passing until almost a month afterwards. The narrative whole is her work not only to prepare her mother's photographs for exhibit, but to reconcile herself with the woman with whom she was never able to make amends.

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