So Much Blue: A novel that slices and sings

By Rachel MacFarland

So Much Blue is a novel by Percival Everett — a writer so good, you’ve likely never heard of him, hidden under the Twilight of 50 Shades of Gray. But with over 30 books to his name, Everett is one of those writers who, once discovered, is the equivalent of a gold rush; your little nerd-heart thrills at the notion that you have only just begun to read. He’s a master of his own voice, and from page one, So Much Blue slices and sings.

The novel (published in 2017 by Minneapolis’s Graywolf Press), takes place in three different time frames in one man’s life: Kevin Pace, a black artist who navigates the world in very specific paint colors.

Kevin spends his summers with his wife and two teenage kids in the posh countryside of Martha’s Vineyard. The narrative moves between that present back to 1979, on a crazy rescue trip to El Salvador, at a politically tense time, and then thirdly, at an age somewhere between Martha’s Vineyard and El Salvador, in Paris.

Percival Everett. Credit: University of Southern California.

The beauty of the plot is that I could detail it here, in its entirety, and you would still know very little about the book. Because while the plot is tight and grows tighter, building to a sort of suspenseful tension, it is not the story. The plot is the conduit for the actual story, which is more like a painting, at times, than a book. A collection of scenes and word-strokes that paint emotion, growth, trauma, expression, and love.

Everett’s characters are complex and wonderfully flawed, and his dialogue. Oh, his dialogue. It is so much more than two people talking; it reveals and illuminates the relationship between the two characters, so powerful that it’s almost a third character in two-character scenes.

If I had to say anything negative about this book, it would only be this: as the plot tightens near the end of the book, the previously blade-sharp writing dulls a bit, making way for all the scenes and moments he is trying to wrap up. This is hardly a criticism, though, as I never lost interest or wasn’t pulled to keep reading. Just one more chapter. One more. Mmm, one more. Luckily, with 30 more books in print, I can “one more” for quite some time.

Rachel MacFarland is Co-Publisher/Writer/Curator at Ope! Publishing in La Crosse.

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