Jim Stegner is an artist. Forty-five years old, somewhat famous, married and divorced more than once, his current lover is the young woman, a 28-year-old with a hippy boyfriend, who models for him. He is still grieving the loss of his adored daughter, murdered three years ago when she was fifteen during a drug buy gone wrong. She had been his favorite fishing partner, appreciating the serenity and concentration and artistry of it, and still cares for the rescue pig she called Mittens. (Oddly, this is the second book in recent weeks which contained a rescue pig!)
Jim has a barely suppressed violent streak, and served some time in jail after having shot a man in a bar. He is now 30 months sober, and has given up his gambling addiction as well, and tries to start fresh in the valleys of rural Colorado. His art dealer in Santa Fe, who has known him for twenty years, offers him a commission for a large portrait of the daughters of a man who has collected his paintings for years, which he ultimately accepts, and travels back to Santa Fe for the work.
The novel revolves around the rescue of a small strawberry roan, about which more cannot be said without spoilers. Initially, I thought this was going to be a departure from my usual read, generally a mystery, usually centered upon a murder. But it did not appear to be the case. The novel centers upon three major aspects of the author’s life, and that of his protagonist: Fishing, painting, and poetry, not necessarily in that order. Three things, I must admit, about which I know little or nothing. But into this placid world violence intrudes, with it a low thrum of suspense and menace.
The writing is elegant, as much poetry as novel. Early in the book, Jim arrives at a small creek where he intends to fish: “. . . the creek below gathering the light as it gathers the water. The water is nearly blue, greener in the pools, snowy in the rapids, a living pulse reflecting trees and sky and cloud and ducks and crossing elk, and soon yours truly as it runs. My own pulse quickening. The excitement that never changes, of getting wet soon. Of facing off with a bunch of wary fish who may or may not be smarter than me.” The world the author creates, of fishing, painting and poetry, is completely captivating, and the novel is highly recommended....Continua