Moody. Atmospheric. Haunting.
“The Painter” by Peter Heller will fill you with the yearning to pick up a brush, buy a canvas and run away to Santa Fe. It will suffuse you with the sound of a brook on a clear moonlit evening and the feel of a fishing rod in your hand. It will fill you with the appreciation for natural beauty and the bottomless grief of losing the one person whom you love most.
Jim Stegner is an artist trying to paint his way out of his past.
In the wake of the destruction of everything he ever held dear; he paints, he fishes. He doesn’t drink. He controls his anger. He loses himself in his work – and his work is amazing. Genius. Transcendent. It touches, inspires and moves people to laughter, to tears. But behind the work is a man barely holding it together. An artist, struggling to survive just being human.
One day Jim comes upon a man beating a small helpless horse and he puts himself in danger to save it. This one act of thoughtless kindness derails his entire quiet existence. He is unable to halt the uncontrollable progression of events and his life, and art, become darker and more volatile. He walks the line between what is right and what is just, between reality and the half-world he hides in.
Jim is violent, protective, loving and lost. He is drowning in his grief and slipping over the edge. When he surfaces into the everyday to feel, to experience, to help… he makes it harder and more complicated somehow. He mostly only manages to fuck things up. Again.
And in every page, through every mistake or bewildering blessing, is painting. Jim creating beautiful, funny, moving, delightful, horrifying and stunning things. Fish dancing on water, birds flying on desks. Mischievous crows and thoughtful horses. Oceans filled with miraculous light and pure joy. We experience who Jim is – his struggles, his choices, his thoughts – with every stroke of his brush.
Heller’s writing vibrates with life on every page. You smell the turpentine, hear the scratch of the palette brush, feel that cool water around your waders as you fish. But most of all, you endure every piercing emotion with Jim.
Jim is a man who cannot let go of the one thing he ever truly loved and lost. Who makes so many mistakes for all the right, and wrong, reasons.
A man who wants a simple life and who in his heart wants to be a better person.
To love more. To hurt less.
But isn’t quite sure how to get there – or even if he can believe ‘there’ still exists.