So Much Blue

Percival Everett's So Much Blue is a masterstroke of a novel that blends biting humor, beautiful ekphrasis and heartbreaking pathos in a stirring, unforgettable composition.

Everett (Erasure) is known for his literary skill and probing intelligence. Here he combines three stories from the point of view of painter Kevin Pace. Pace's present-day life entails family troubles with his daughter and wife, and a secretive, giant painting he keeps under lock and key. Intermittent flashbacks form two underlying narratives, one about a tragic experience in El Salvador when Pace was a young man, and the other about an extramarital affair in Paris when he was older. Layered together much like a painting, the three stories harmonize with striking, revelatory power.

To get there, Everett flexes the full range of his talent, including a sly, cynical sense of humor that cuts to the absurdity of the novel's situations and characters. A rundown cantina in the countryside of El Salvador, for example, is "so much a cliché that it wasn't one." With the same deftness, Everett switches tones and finds his characters in more serious moods. Pace's painting becomes an extended metaphor for his life, and Everett uses the device to sublime effect: "If this feeling were a color, I considered, it would be the orange threads of slightly diluted saffron."

So Much Blue explores the dimensions of human experience as few books can. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist, poet and fiction author

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