Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:
From the moment Eben first sees Jennie, time begins to slip. Each time they meet, Jennie is a little older; Eben starts to wonder, then, just who Jennie Appleton is. He embarks on a journey of the city’s past, visits the old places and starts asking questions. Eben meets the doorman at the Rialto who played Hammerstein’s back in the day, and a nun at the convent where Jennie was sent after her parents died. These people remember Jennie. They tell Eben that Jennie is dead. The old New Yorkers are alive but speak like ghosts. They live in 1934 New York, and also a New York that is no more. The old New Yorkers pull Eben deeper into the labyrinth of slippage.
The portrait of Jennie progresses but slowly — weeks, sometimes months pass between the moments when Jennie appears. When she does, it’s never for long. And there is always the premonition of death. Eben’s artistic depression turns into obsession. Finishing the portrait of Jennie is all that matters. He’s not fully alive whenever Jennie is gone. Winter turns to summer which turns back eventually to winter. Time doesn’t progress but curves around him. Love and art orient Eben toward the future. And yet Eben knows that Jennie is a ghost, and that their future has already passed. The portrait of Jennie brings Eben to life — but love seems to lead him toward death. Who knoweth if to die be but to live … and that called life by mortals be but death?