Alena by Rachel Pastan

Alena by Rachel Pastan

She had no idea when she accepted the curator position at the Nauk—an innovative Cape Cod gallery dedicated to emerging artists—that a dead woman would thwart her at every turn. 

Recently out of grad school, she (the narrator of Rachel Pastan’s Alena) had scored a job as the assistant to a curator at a small Midwestern gallery. She quickly realized that the position was little more than that of a glorified Girl Friday. When Louise, her boss, insists she attend the prestigious Venice Biennale, visions of the art she’ll experience swirl through her psyche. But instead Louise dominates her time in Italy with one menial task after another. 

(Conveniently) Louise falls ill and her assistant jumps on the opportunity to discover Venice’s unending visual treasures. On her odyssey, she meets Bernard Augustine, the wealthy but tortured owner of the Nauk. The two share an immediate bond as he guides her through the surrounding beauty. When Bernard offers her the curatorial position, she responds with an instant acceptance. 

Arriving in Cape Cod, she’s plagued from the first moment by the presence of Alena, the previous curator, who mysteriously disappeared two years earlier and is presumed to have drowned. After she vanished, the Nauk had essentially shut down. As the new curator, her task is to re-open the gallery in grand style, but everyone associated with the Nauk repeatedly makes it clear that she could never approach Alena’s panache. 

Just as the show is about to open, a particularly rough storm hits the coast, washing some bones up onto the beach. Even now, is it possible that Alena could upstage her successor?