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The Painter

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  12,963 ratings  ·  1,679 reviews
Peter Heller, the celebrated author of the breakout best seller The Dog Stars, returns with an achingly beautiful, wildly suspenseful second novel about an artist trying to outrun his past.

Jim Stegner has seen his share of violence and loss. Years ago he shot a man in a bar. His marriage disintegrated. He grieved the one thing he loved. In the wake of tragedy, Jim, a well
...more
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Knopf
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Katherine Gregg No, there aren't any images of the paintings in the book. I met the author recently at an event and he said that Jim Stegner is based on a real artist…moreNo, there aren't any images of the paintings in the book. I met the author recently at an event and he said that Jim Stegner is based on a real artist named Jim Wagner out of Taos, NM. So you can google him and look at his artwork to get an idea of Stegner's paintings.(less)
Harriett Milnes O. Henry wrote a short story called "The Gift of the Magi". In in a young couple has no money with which to buy each other a Christmas gift. The husba…moreO. Henry wrote a short story called "The Gift of the Magi". In in a young couple has no money with which to buy each other a Christmas gift. The husband hocks his watch to buy his wife beautiful hair combs; meanwhile the wife has sold her hair to buy him a watch chain.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,963 ratings  ·  1,679 reviews


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David Putnam
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Painter is a literary work of art. The author uses a crime novel as a vehicle to display beautiful and lyrical prose. This book is going up on my “Favorites,” shelf. I put this book on the same level as All the Pretty Horses, I Lay Down My Sword and Shield and To the Bright and Shining Sun. I usually read and enjoy books that are like chocolate and popcorn, fast easy reads that are entertaining and have strong Fictive Dreams. But in between, and to cleanse my reading palette, I like somethin ...more
Jill
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
At first glance, it seems that The Painter – Peter Heller’s ravishing second novel – has little in common with Dog Stars, his debut book that positioned him as a writer to watch. Yet each, in its own way, chronicles a journey toward spiritual regeneration, a journey to finding grace in a merciless universe.

The Painter reconfirms that Peter Heller has a massive talent. Our narrator is Jim Stegner, an expressionist New Mexican artist, an avid fly fisherman, and the father of a teenage girl whose
...more
Diane S ☔
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I first started this book I had some trouble getting into it. What kept me reading were the wonderful words and beautiful descriptions of scenery and wildlife and the compelling, but complicated persona that is the character Jim Stegner. This is a novel of contrasts, dark and gritty alongside beauty and peace.

Jim is a haunted man, a man at war, not in some other country, but within his own self. He seeks peace in painting and fly fishing and there are many descriptions of both. He is haunte
...more
Cathrine ☯️
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-read
5 🎨 🎨 🎨 🎨 🎨
Painting and fly fishing feature prominently in this wonderful novel. I have done neither but oh my, how seductive reading about them was. The setting is Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve been to both and loved the lyrical prose; close your eyes and you can picture it all from his descriptions and smell the piñon nuts.

One of my reading buddies on this won a quilt, something I used to engage in passionately. What you want in a finished piece is lots of contrast between the colors
...more
Jeannie
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I think Peter Heller is a brilliant writer. If you loved The Dog Stars, you will like this book too.
The Painter is like reading poetry, I took my time reading this one because I didn't want it to end.

Highly recommend!
...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
I happen to be an artist and a fisherman. So is Jim Stegner, the main character of Peter Heller's amazing second novel. Heller's prose is some of the finest I've read in recent memory. He treats this story like an open canvas that Jim Stegner himself might paint on. Heller's brush strokes are pitch perfect in this passionate and heartfelt adventure. I loved this book. ...more
Blues
May 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Like many, I truly enjoyed and was moved by "The Dog Stars". This novel, however, couldn't be more different in that regard.

It was somewhat of a Sisyphusian effort to work through and finish as the protagonist was unlikable (and unbelievable), the plot overly contrived (and unbelievable) and the overall story line and action cookie cutter and formulaic. (Big, tough, talented, independent, uncompromising, moody artist...babe magnet...finds himself lamenting and struggling to survive the hellish l
...more
Carol
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: reminds me somehow of The Sisters Brothers
Shelves: fiction
I'm not quite sure why I liked The Painter so much. I can tell you it didn't start out that way. It did start out with sort of a bang but then I was like "What the hey?". I held out, kept reading and soon got into the rhythm of Heller's style of writing. The story clicked and by book's end I decided it was pretty good, 4 stars in fact.

If I had to pick an audience I'd say this is a man's book. But that's not quite right either as the main character is a quandary of description. Jim Stegner. He's
...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
**Between 4 and 4.5 stars**

Peter Heller's writing was new to me when I sought out The Dog Stars in March. My first response to the pandemic was to read several apocalyptic novels back to back, perhaps thinking that the dire situation depicted would be more scary than what was happening in the real world. I enjoyed that novel very much so I changed course and went on to read The River, another very well written thriller and adventure story by Heller.

Which led me then to The Painter, which is actu
...more
Libby
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great story, ‘The Painter’ by Peter Heller focuses on Jim Stegner, avid fisherman and well known artist. The first sentence, “I never imagined I would shoot a man,” lets us know that our protagonist has a deep undercurrent of anger that can boil over into violence. Even though the anger / violence is there, it continually surprises Jim. Perhaps the emotions are a direct result of Jim’s grief, of his sorrow at the losses he suffered. These emotions also spill over into his art. Sometimes it's l ...more
Don Welty
May 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
the story of a big (and I mean that literally and figuratively) man's man - 'pretty famous' artist by day painting ducks in heat, family portraits, gunshots to heads psychopath-assassin fisherman by night. Handsome, well built and trying to do the good things other people are too stupid to do.......

For someone who loved 'The Dog Stars' - I am beyond disappointed in a book of implausible silly cliches and little more.......If I had to read that he was going to have another cheroot I was going to
...more
Lisa
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
[4+]"What the f--- are you doing? Stop!" I repeatedly shouted to Jim Stegner, the sensitive, violent, macho, gentle, out-of-control, fisherman-artist in The Painter. Of course he didn't listen and made mistake after mistake, keeping me off balance and held captive for 364 pages. Heller writes exquisitely. The vivid descriptions of Stegner's paintings were more than enough reward for sitting through multiple fishing expeditions. I could picture each painting and each one stunned me. ...more
Michael
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very rewarding read for me, the way it stirs up so many themes about our place in nature and our impossible dream to live and act with the freedom and innocence of animals. Jim Stegner is a gifted painter working in New Mexico, struggling to get past the grief of the loss of a teenaged daughter to urban violence and ensuing end of his marriage to her mother. He is trying hard to avoid a relapse into alcohol and violence, but when he encounters an incident of terrible cruelty to a horse by loca ...more
Jen
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a good read combining western vigilantism with an artistic flavour. The Painter is about a man- who is both a painter and fisherman -trying to escape the suffering of loss he has encountered in his life. Along that journey, however, he meets up with evil and decides to act on it taking the law into his own hands. His journey becomes one of being hunted and it's through this experience he is able to heal. The book is broken into canvases rather than chapters which was interesting. Very d ...more
Carol
Dec 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-audible
***2.5 Stars...rounded up to 3*** Unfortunately, I just finished two splendid novels and this one suffered by comparison.
Perri
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing to me on so many levels. There's harrowing suspense as a man knows he's being hunted down by family members intent on revenge. It's a psychological study of a flawed, complex man with a self destructive streak and painful family history. What I especially loved was the art. A peek inside the drive of creative genius that doesn't choose to paint, but must. The Painter's interpretations of other paintings and his own interspersed with fishing ala A River Runs Through It. How c ...more
Carmel Hanes
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounded up.

"The eyes different colors, the colors shifting, the way pebbles on the bottom of a stream, the way the fast water is constantly moving the lances of sunlight."

The way this author captures the nuance and beauty in the natural world around him. I enjoyed it in The River, and I enjoyed it even more here. And he captures not only our natural world, but our inner worlds:

"Sometimes in a bar fight, just before it erupts, you feel the way things are going, they can't go any other way, an
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Grief takes on epic and violent proportions in this story of a reclusive artist, one who is notable in Santa Fe. Jim Stegner cuts a searing, Hemingway-esque figure, the beard and the bigness, the love of fishing and the outdoors, and the laconic mask. However, Stegner doesn't possess much in the way of academic roots. He was essentially a punk, belligerent kid who dropped out of school, had an epiphany at age seventeen after viewing some art that blew him away, got accepted into the San Francisc ...more
Kathleen


"Some creeks you simply loved, and seeing the railroad sign with the craggy gorge reminded me that we can proceed in our lives just as easily from love to love as from loss to loss. A good thing to remember in the middle of the night when you're not sure how you will get through the next three breaths."

When I first started reading this book,
I had trouble getting into it. So I am thankful that The Painter by Peter Heller was a "buddy read", which encouraged me to ignore the bits of coarse languag
...more
Rob
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of the more annoying things about social media – or at least some of the people I'm friends with – are the vague posts decrying all the "drama" in their lives. "I'm sick of all the drama," they say, or else they blame other people for bringing this drama into their lives. But what I always notice is the supreme lack of self-knowledge these posts reflect, because here's a newsflash: if there's constant drama in your life, you're the one inviting it. It doesn't happen by accident and the unive ...more
☮Karen
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book! To listen to it narrated by Mark Deakins no doubt made it more enjoyable than if I had read it. I'm afraid the many fly fishing facts at the beginning would have otherwise bored me, a non-fisherperson, to sleep. But the narrator added a sexy smoothness to the listening experience, no matter what he was saying. The prose on its own, with a multitude of vivid and evocative descriptions of nature, was luminous and clear as the Colorado sky under which the story unfolds. Contrast th ...more
Lisa
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was such a beautifully written book. I enjoyed this so much. One of those books that transports you and makes you feel like you're walking with the character, or that you ARE the character. Such a strong read, so colorful and moving. 5 stars. ...more
Stephanie
May 28, 2014 rated it liked it
What a tremendously frustrating book. I was on the verge of loving it a few times, but so many things kept getting in the way. Mostly the women. They are props, never people, and having read his earlier novel, the brilliant, lovely "The Dog Stars," I see no excuse for that. The first signs of trouble emerge on the second page of Chapter One: “She is twenty-eight. An age of drama. She reminds me of a chicken in the way she is top-heavy, looks like she should topple over. I mean her trim body is s ...more
Petra
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: art
A mixed bag of thoughts is what I'm left with after reading this book. The descriptions of landscape was beautiful; the land could seem quite haunting at times. The paintings were wonderfully described; I would really like some of these paintings on my walls. The women are one dimensional and are all physically beautiful and have large breasts; they all love the protagonist in some way. The protagonist is an emotional mess: passionate about painting, fishing, drinking; angry with little control. ...more
Danica Ramgoolam
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Danica by: Publisher
Whoa, Holy Shit Peter Heller. You have some crazy, profound, messed up shit in your head. And it makes for an amazing book!!! Deeply emotional, suspenseful at times, sentimental and heartwrenching, Peter Heller captures the calm of fishing as well as the action of being chased by a crazy truck driver, the beauty of art along with the ugliness of cold blooded murder. If you liked The Dog Stars you will love The Painter. If you haven't read The Dog Stars read them both. Peter Heller is a master, w ...more
Candie
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
More like a 2.5 maybe?

This one was a hard one for me to rate. There are some things about this book I love and some I hated. First, I love Peter Heller's writing style. This is his second book I have read; I also read The River and loved it! He uses very short sentences and is very descriptive but in very few words. It's hard to explain but for some reason I really connect with this style. It seems to make me feel things very intensely, if I was creeped out by something I felt very creeped out;
...more
Larry H
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

Jim Stegner is an artist of some renown. Possessing exceptional talent, when inspiration hits he can get lost in his paintings, and create something memorable, something beautiful fairly quickly. Tired of the Santa Fe art scene, and of having to play the game, he finds solace in rural Colorado, where he finds plenty of inspiration for his art, and plenty of opportunity to pursue his other favorite pastime, fishing.

However successful he is, Jim's life has not been without
...more
Cheri
Peter Heller’s The Painter introduces us to the life of Jim Stegner, a 45 year old artist, fly fisherman and somewhat darkly and introspective individual, twice divorced and still grieving the loss of his daughter, whose life ended in violence. Heller begins The Painter with “I never imagined I would shoot a man.” Stegner seeks for a peaceful life, through the Zen of his fly-fishing as well as his art, and his choice of living a relatively isolated life.

Heller’s portrait of Stegner maintains th
...more
Vonia
The downfall of high expectations. The expectations inherent in the sophomore book from an author with a magnificent debut. How did Peter Heller fare? Fair.

Like his magnificent debut novel, "The Dog Stars", " The Painter" has a palpable mood; an ambiance that is set by the words on the page. Both novels explore lonely places; sad situations, dark frames of mind, last resort scenarios, best-left-avoided emotions. Both novels are infused, however with the right amount of light. Enough light can b
...more
Ann
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
And with this book, Peter Heller has placed himself firmly on my list of Favorite Living Authors. Beautiful, poetic, emotionally gut-wrenching. I underlined sentences. Oh, did I underline sentences! But this book goes well beyond pretty sentences. It has character. It has plot. And it has gorgeous, beautiful writing. It also has some wonderful meditations on art that I think hold true for writing as well.
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Play Book Tag: The Painter by Peter Heller 3 stars 2 12 Jul 20, 2016 07:27PM  
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Peter Heller holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in both fiction and poetry. An award-winning adventure writer and longtime contributor to NPR, Heller is a contributing editor at Outside magazine, Men’s Journal, and National Geographic Adventure, and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek. He is also the autho
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