Tag Archives: Peter Heller

Review: The Painter

The Painter

The Painter
By Peter Heller
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385352093, May 2014, 384pp.)

The Short of It:

Thoughtfully written novel about anger and loss. Surprisingly deep.

The Rest of It:

What did I expect when I picked this up? I seriously went into it without much knowledge about the story itself and sometimes that is a great way to go into a book. The only thing I  knew beforehand, was that I enjoyed Heller’s other novel, The Dog Stars and apparently, that’s not a bad way to choose a book because I really enjoyed this one.

The story is simple. Jim Stegner is sitting in a bar one day when one of its patrons makes an off-color remark about his daughter. Jim, not a man to let such a thing go, shoots the guy and goes to prison for it. Years later, after serving his sentence he chooses not to return to the Santa Fe art scene he left behind. Instead, he heads to rural Colorado to paint in solitude, fly fish and remember the marriage that he once had, and the daughter he lost to drugs.

This quiet novel stays with you long after reading it. Stegner is an interesting guy. He expresses himself through his paintings, but his temper gets him into trouble and when he sees a guy beat a horse on the side of the road, he can’t help but act and of course this starts a chain of events that he cannot ignore. Through it all, the reader is in his head as he ponders his predicament and somehow, he is not the bad guy no matter what he chooses to do. He’s imperfect but at the same time, his actions seem logical which makes him easy to relate to.

The writing is almost poetic. Sometimes, even lyrical in nature. It’s not flowery or overdone but it’s simple and lovely and I remember feeling the same way about The Dog Stars. I kind of dig his style. It’s no-nonsense and yet deep. It’s also a very quick read. I highly recommend it because there is all kinds of stuff to sink your teeth into.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Review: The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars

The Dog Stars
By Peter Heller
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307959942, August 2012, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Unassuming, sad and occasionally funny. A book about the Apocalypse but minus the zombies, suppurating wounds, or gratuitous violence that we’ve come to associate with the genre.

The Rest of It:

Nine years after 99% of the population has been wiped out by the flu, a man and his dog navigate the wasteland he’s come to call home, in an aging Cessna, limping along on fuel he’s salvaged from abandoned airports. Hig’s future is bleak. In spite of the “not so nice” people he encounters from time to time, he’s managed to become good friends with a loner named Bangley and when he is flying overhead, with his dog Jasper by his side, things don’t seem too awful.

But…

Hig is lonely. His wife and unborn child were lost during the epidemic and although he’s comfortable and sometimes even has a sense of humor over his current situation, his need for human contact sends him to uncharted landscapes with the hopes of finding that elusive something that can offer up some hope for tomorrow.

I think this book is a tough read for a lot of people. Not because it’s graphic or too heavy but because the first half of it so hard to get into. Hig’s train of thought is presented in short, clipped half-sentences. This took a bit of getting used to and caused the story to halt along as an unnatural pace, but once I got used to the rhythm of it, I really wasn’t bothered and felt that it added something to the story. Hig is a guy who’s spent the better part of ten years with limited human contact; it made sense for him to lose the art of conversation.

The Dog Stars can be compared to The Road – but it’s light. It’s a lighter, more upbeat version of the apocalypse books you’ve come to know and with its limited list of players, the sense of desolation and loneliness take center stage. I could have done without the poorly penned sex scene at the end of the book, but given its rocky start, I liked it quite a bit (not the sex scene, but the book). It’s serious, sad and funny which is an odd combination for a book with this subject matter, but somehow it works.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.