Did you grow up in the 70s? Here's a nostalgic look back
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” takes on a new meaning when an accomplished artist such as this one decides to paint with words. This multi-layered coming-of-age story blends genres under the skilful hand of the writer. The result? A combination of mystery, murder, romance and adventure that is certain to entertain.
The story is set in the late 60s and early 70s, and starts with a bang when an airplane loaded with marijuana crashes on a farm in West Texas. The owner of the plane, Blaine Grayson, is presumed dead. We learn more about him through Mariah — the woman he had a brief encounter with in New Orleans — and his younger brother Cliff. They alternate in telling the story as they both set out on their own to find him. This was a time marked by hatred of war, free love and free spirits, and the fight for civil rights. Not to mention the experimentation with drugs to create alternate realities. It is against this backdrop that Mariah and Cliff search for their own places in the world. Mariah poses nude for art and sculptor classes and tries her hand at farming. Cliff learns to paint under the tutelage of a mentor in Mexico. The writer uses terms and descriptions related to painting at the start of each chapter as signposts of what’s coming.
I like the visual nature of the tale. You can picture the landscape, and you can smell and taste the spicy Mexican food. You can hear the music and feel the breeze flowing over the lush vegetation. Yet, its greatest strength is also the novel’s weakness as the attention to detail slows down the pace of the story. After the dramatic start, the characters get lost in the angst of their relationships and new environment. It becomes tempting to pause and set the book aside. But then, luckily, the story picks up speed and rollicks on to its dramatic and open-ended conclusion.
This award-winning debut novel will appeal to baby boomers nostalgic about a bygone era. It is also a great read for anyone who enjoys the scenery as much as the journey of the story itself.
(This review was published on Reedsy/Discovery: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/a-coward-s-guide-to-oil-painting-mm-kent#review)