Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Mural artist Ben has come from Tel Aviv to Atlanta to work on a commission. A successful artist, he’s still lonely and isolated after his family’s rejection. Ben is charmed and surprised when local soldier Eli mistakes him for homeless, and brings him a cup of coffee and a biscuit. This gesture opens the door. Eli is lost, trying to make sense of a future without the Army after a combat injury ends his career.
Art gives them a new language and a path forward. But lost men can reach out, desperate to hang on to anyone close. Is what they find together real, and the kind of love that will last?
States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.
I’ve accepted that I’ll never read a long novel by Sarah Black as she’s written that the novella is her favorite form of story. Truly length has never really mattered other than my strong wish to spend more time in the universes this author creates and with the characters she brings so vividly to life.
War Paint is a perfect example of why I love her stories so. Small, encapsulated, yet so fully formed a universe that every building, cafe, street, and benches across that street can easily be envisioned. And populated with layered, wounded characters trying to find their way through life, one day, one person at a time (see Sarah Black’s guest post on Adaptive Reuse on Young Guys and Old Buildings)*.
Vet Eli feels lost, and not just because of the trauma of losing a limb and the subsequent recovery. He’s still dealing with the loss of his “warrior self” as well as his limb. His unusual therapist wants him to keep a diary. Eli’s character is wounded in multiple ways and the path he takes towards healing and love is remarkable, and (in a 88 page novella) deceptively slow.
An act of kindness has Eli meeting artist Ben and his dog across the street from the cafe Eli haunts. A conversation becomes a layered, complicated, and oh so lovely relationship that I can’t even begin to attempt to describe. A sort of yin and yang of need, love, wounds and ability to salve.
Oh, and there’s this automobile building that’s getting repurposed (like so many older wonderful buildings are these days) and is getting a mural as well. Sarah Black gives us some insight into that process as well.*
This story runs tender, wild, funny, and loving. All within 88 pages. It has so much soul. Love even for the buildings and the man himself who is behind the construction project is treated with a light of respect and a gift.
Small gems like these leave me smiling all day, even more in memory when I spot street art or another building downtown being repurposed and saved. I’ll remember War Paint. And Ben and Eli, and a certain therapist.
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht. Cover is strong but I always wish for a little more here. Maybe something of the building itself.
ebook, 88 pages
Published May 25th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press