Pumpjack Book Reviews

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Book Review: So Much Blue by Percival Everett


The emotional pull of secrets 

So Much Blue by Percival Everett tells Kevin Pace’s story, an artist of some renown, living in a semi- rural area, with a wife and two children. Kevin’s story has three arcs: one in the present, one in Paris a decade or so ago, and one in Nicaragua, about thirty years in the past.

In the present, Kevin is working on a very large painting, which has been his focus for many years, and no one has ever seen it, including his wife. It may be the culminating work of his career, or it may not. Kevin has reached a point of indifference on this point. In this arc that takes place in the present, Kevin’s teenage daughter reveals to Kevin she is pregnant but extracts a promise he must keep the secret, even from his wife, the girl's mother. In the recent past, Kevin embarks on a weeklong affair in Paris with beautiful, young watercolorist, and falls in love in a way he has never experienced with his wife. In the distant past, in El Salvador, Kevin travels to find his friend Richard’s lost and drug-addled brother. It is the eve of the brutal civil war, and bad things happen.

The prose is spare but polished, descriptive when needed but not overly so, the dialogue feels true, and the structural encasing was intriguingly diverting and non-traditional, enhancing rather than disrupting the flow. This reading experience was rich and complex, with wonderfully wry commentary on art, life and writing. The story was, for me, ultimately about secrets, especially as they accumulate in a middle-aged life, and their pull as one seeks to balance a private emotional life with their ripple effect, whether kept or revealed, on intimate relationships. Further, the non-traditional chronology of the narrative, takes the reader back and forth in events as well as the emotional shifts of a man at youth, middle-age and about to cross the precipice into old age. 

Highly recommended.

This review is excerpted from a longer post on Blowout, the blog of Pumpjack Press in which the author's novel Erasure is also discussed.