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The Painter: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 6, 2014
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2014: Following up on the success of The Dog Stars, his post-apocalyptic literary debut of 2012, Peter Heller now pivots in a slightly different direction. The Painter is a contemporary Western about a 45-year-old artist and fly fisherman named Jim Stegner. Having lost two wives to divorce and his only daughter to violence, Stegner has felt the sting of life; but he’s also capable of experiencing great beauty, whether through his art, his relationships, or while out casting on a river. Heller skillfully balances these two sides of his protagonist, painting a portrait of a man whose dark edge can explode in unexpected ways (the first line of The Painter is "I never imagined I would shoot a man)." As the action moves forward, Heller proves adept at describing both peace and violence, and his second novel establishes him firmly in the tradition of writers like Kent Haruf, Thomas McGuane, and Cormac McCarthy. --Chris Schluep
*Starred Review* Heller’s first novel, The Dog Stars (2012), a muscularly literary postapocalyptic tale, became a blazing best-seller. Here he takes the frenetic energy down a notch without diminishing suspense as he portrays an artist with “the heart of a killer.” Though renowned and well off, with a top gallery in Santa Fe, painter Jim Stegner is haunted by grief and guilt. He served time for shooting a dangerous man who made lewd remarks about Jim’s blossoming daughter, who later died under circumstances he can’t bear to think about. Seeking peace in the glories of land and sky and the Zen of fly-fishing, Jim has just settled into a small house in the Colorado wilderness, where he’s painting with great intensity, inspired by the best model he’s ever had, smart, tough Sophia. Then he encounters a man brutally beating a horse. Jim ends up murdering this notoriously violent, much-feared hunting outfitter, putting an abrupt end to his quest for serenity. As Jim duels with the police and the dead man’s kin, he keeps painting, creating provoking, elegiac, and jubilant works fueled by anguish and love. Heller’s writing is sure-footed and rip-roaring, star-bright and laced with “dark yearning,” coalescing in an ever-escalating, ravishing, grandly engrossing and satisfying tale of righteousness and revenge, artistic fervor and moral ambiguity. --Donna Seaman
Top customer reviews
Heller's follow-up to his debut, The Dog Stars, is unexpected. He doesn't allow himself to become pigeon holed by writing another post apocalyptic novel, but instead turns to contemporary fiction, though his Southwestern setting remains much the same. As much as I loved his first offering, I found this one even better. He treats the high mountain deserts of Colorado and New Mexico like art. It is impossible not to fall in love with the piñons and creek beds that populate his novel, as much a part of the story as any character. They create such a longing for home that cannot simply be written off as my own homesickness for this exact patch of ground.
This story however is more than its setting it is also a moving portrayal of grief and anger so tightly bound that they cannot be separated. Jim Stegner is a compelling character. You feel his pain, you feel pity for this man, and at the same time you feel anger at him for continuing to make one dumb mistake after another. He is raw and real in a way few characters ever are. The rest of the characters fade into the background, dimmed in the harsh light of the painter, but enhancing the story in the way a supporting cast should.
The Painter was everything I want from a good story. I didn't want to put it down, and when I did it never left my mind. When the story finally ended, it was with a sigh of disappointment that I closed the book. I didn't want it to end. I wait with anticipation for his next offering and wholly recommend this book without reservation.
Simply, it is about an artist, Jim, who lives in rural Colorado. He fishes and paints and sells his work through a gallery in Taos, New Mexico, where he used to live. He is a divorced, former alcoholic, who is mourning his daughter's death, who shot a man in New Mexico, who rescues a horse, and who is a person of interest in a murder investigation.
More complexly, it is a lyrical, thought provoking contemplation of the nature of good and evil and life. It is a glimpse into the mind and emotions of an artist, a man who loves nature and animals and poetry, a man who is, perhaps, bad. Or is it?
Heller's descriptions of what it is like to be, to think, to feel like an artist are wonderful, and they are very close to how artists I know have tried to explain they feel. His descriptions of sex have an ethereal quality I feel is often missing in all too many books, which too often appear to include sexual scenes because it is an expected part of a formula, which demands the same physical details over and over.
The character, Jim, tells his story in first person narrative, that is compelling in how it links nature with thought and experiences. He analyzes himself, his paintings, and other people. But the book is never boring. He explains the meaning of his paintings -- which can change as he thinks about them -- and makes me want to see them all, in addition to reading about them. Jim is a well crafted character, one of those rare ones, who seems real in fact as well as in fiction.
The book is also suspenseful. Jim is in danger in more ways than one. The awareness that danger lingers and pursues him may merely be a suggestion sometimes, but it is always there.
Perhaps the greatest success of the book it that it makes the read think and feel about many things. One of these things has to do with people, and whether someone might do bad things, but remain a good person. Or is it that simple?
I highly, absolutely, positively recommend this book.
Most recent customer reviews
Look inside the mind of man. A man. Maybe all men. At the creative, the brave. The scared and terrified and empathetic.
Just read it.
Skip it and read something else.