Secrets betrayed and promises kept are on full display in Percival Everett’s 29th book, “So Much Blue.”
Painter Kevin Pace is 56 years old and working on what may be his masterpiece: a canvas 12 feet high by 21 feet 3 inches across that he will allow no one — not his wife, not his best friend, not his children — to see. While barricading his Vermont studio against prying eyes, Kevin is reminded of events that occurred in Paris 10 years ago and in San Salvador some 30 years ago — events he has never spoken of but that have influenced the course of his life in small and large ways.
The novel moves back and forth between these three time periods and locations, exploring a different secret in each narrative: one of love, one of murder, and one surrounding Kevin’s present-day teenage daughter — a secret that threatens Kevin’s quiet home life not in its nature, but in Kevin’s choice to keep it to himself. What secrets should be kept, and what secrets should be shared? Confronted with this query, Kevin returns to San Salvador hoping for redemption, only to find that the way forward is not by confronting secrets of the past, but in honoring promises made in the current day.
The novel’s ruminations on confidences and loyalty are cleverly explored through punchy, dry humor — Kevin’s time in San Salvador is filled with surprising comedy — and Everett’s writing is, as ever, filled with heart. “If I died today everyone would comment on my youth and yet if I broke my leg trying to leap the back fence everyone would call me an old fool.”
The latest work from a great American author, “So Much Blue” is another fine book in Everett’s vast collection.