Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout best seller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, wildly suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past.
Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well-known expressionist painter, abandoned the art scene of Santa Fe to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. Now he spends his days painting and fly-fishing, trying to find a way to live with the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. He works with a lovely model. His paintings fetch excellent prices. But one afternoon, on a dirt road, Jim comes across a man beating a small horse, and a brutal encounter rips his quiet life wide open. Fleeing Colorado, chased by men set on retribution, Jim returns to New Mexico, tormented by his own relentless conscience.
A stunning, savage novel of art and violence, love and grief, The Painter is the story of a man who longs to transcend the shadows in his heart, a man intent on using the losses he has suffered to create a meaningful life.
This eBook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
Jim Stegner, celebrated painter, ardent fisherman and homespun philosopher, narrates this masterful novel, in which love (parental and romantic), artistic vision, guilt, grief, and spine-chilling danger propel a suspenseful plot. In one aspect of his personality, Jim is a gentle, introspective man who reads and quotes poetry, feels at one with nature, and has full-hearted empathy with animals. But every now and then, if provocation occurs, rage "a red blindness" swells up in him and destroys any restraint. When the novel opens, Jim has already served prison time for beating a man who leered at his teenage daughter. Now his daughter is dead, murdered at age 15, and Jim feels bitter guilt and endless remorse for the girl's death. After the tragedy, Jim's wife left him. He has retreated to a little house in a Colorado valley where he is painting with new urgency, beginning an affair with his young model, and conquering his alcohol and gambling addictions. When he comes upon a man brutally beating a horse, however, Jim's rage rises again. The rest of Heller's story includes two murders that Jim is involved with, and also a period of artistic flowering, as paintings that portray his psychological state flow from his palette. Heller (The Dog Stars) is equally skillful at describing the creation of a painting as he is at describing the thrilling details of a gunfight. Here, he explores the mysteries of the human heart and creates an indelible portrait of a man searching for peace, while seeking to maintain his humanity in the face of violence and injustice.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book is a gift
This story is powerful and fast. Never have I fished. I don't like them. I don't eat them. And yet, I was mesmerized by the beauty of those sequences.
I read this first for the story. Driven, sad, colorful. I reread it for the music embedded in this tale.
Note to Peter Heller: write faster!
A reader, Anna
The mere idea of painting a portrait of society, with a spotlight focused on the confusing grey between good and evil, where most reside, is intriguing. With stylistic writing, Heller has pulled it off. With a dash of cobalt where most would use cadmium. Where we see good, many see evil or where many see evil, someone sees good. Such is democracy in a heavily sin spiced world. Well done, especially if you like rare.
Excellent, very well written and Heller keeps the tension through out.