Archive for the ‘The Painter’ Tag

Sky Watching   Leave a comment

PeterHeller
A few weeks ago I reviewed Peter Heller’s The Painter. That was  shortly after Station Eleven. While I enjoyed both books, I thought I’d wait before starting another work by Heller, and I certainly had no intention of being drawn into another novel about a post-apocalyptic world. Then I heard Heller talk. He shared his experiences as a freelance writer and told how he came to write fiction. He read some from The Painter and The Dog Stars. I really had no good excuse not to read the latter.

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It takes a little time adjusting to Heller’s stream of consciousness style with no quotation marks and single word sentences. It’s a terse yet fitting approach for Hig, a pilot who’s survived a flu pandemic, to tell his story. He lives with his dog, Jasper, and Bangley, a weapons-hoarder-ask-questions-later neighbor on an abandoned airfield northeast of Denver.

They must constantly be on alert from human predators. Hig is the least vigilant of the trio. What’s left of the world is not a friendly place. Yet, despite his best efforts, given the losses he’s faced, Hig is an optimist. A chance static-riddled radio transmission three years earlier from western Colorado has made him restless. Against Bangley’s better judgment, Hig needs to know what and, more importantly, who may still be out there.

His discovery is beautiful and gut-wrenching. Like Hig, the reader comes to appreciate Bangley. Although it hardly seems possible, as the story progresses Hig’s sensitivity and humanity gain greater significance.

The Dog Stars

Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
320 pages

Paint Escapes   Leave a comment

 

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The Painter by Peter Heller is a story of redemption. It’s also part thriller. The who-dunnit isn’t in question, but the underlying reasons and the chase(s) help make it a page turner.

Jim Stegner is a painter with a temper, a broken heart and a soft spot for children and animals. His passions are his art and fishing, both of which usually bring him a sense of peace. Set in southwestern Colorado and northern New Mexico, Heller’s writing renders vivid landscapes with careful, albeit, broad strokes. The images accurately evoke the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

An encounter with a poacher leads Jim from one bad decision to another. At times it’s easy to think the best solution is for Jim’s mistakes to catch up with him. They come close, very close. The problem is there several other characters with whom the reader becomes invested, including – perhaps especially – Sophia, the young model with whom Jim befriends. Irmina, his long-time friend/occasional lover, is also likeable.

There’s more to Jim than his canvases and waders. His past is slowly revealed providing possible explanations for his rash behaviors. The pain he carries regarding his daughter is palpable. So is the disdain he has for law enforcement, art collectors and others. And, he’s a man capable of murder. Ironically, though his actions are crimes and can’t be condoned, they’re almost justified.

Despite Jim’s frustrating behavior, the moments of joy and a fair amount of intrigue make Heller’s novel an enjoyable read.

The Painter

Four Bookmarks
Vintage Contemporaries, 2014
363 pages