The Painter by Peter Heller

 

Well-known painter Jim Stegner has a checkered past and is prone to violence. Having lost his marriage and his daughter, Jim escapes to rural Colorado to paint, fish, and deal with his grief. When his inner demons surface once again, Jim flees, struggling to understand and overcome his true nature while being chased by those wanting revenge.

Peter Heller has created a heart-wrenching portrait of grief. Watching Jim work through that grief was compelling, sometimes overwhelming. There is a good bit of confusion in this novel: it’s hard to get a straight answer about what happened, about what exactly is going on, especially since Jim seems to lose chunks of time. It creates a good deal of suspense.

Yet…I still found myself bored with large portions of the narrative. I’m normally a fan of slower-paced, character-driven novels, but I wasn’t able to fully relax and enjoy that aspect here. Once the story started to fill with suspense, I needed the pace to pick up. Instead, there were times when it felt like it stalled out.

I find myself in the same state of mind after reading The Painter as I was with Heller’s previous novel, The Dog Stars: I enjoyed it well enough, but wasn’t left with strong feelings either way.