When Nina, the daughter of a famous gaming mogul now struggling to teach poetry in a city high school, meets Collin, set designer, waiter, and chalk designer of the book’s title, she wonders if he might be a good fit for Arkadia, her father’s company. But that leads to any number of complications, including Collin’s fixation on Daphne, Arkadia’s goth marketing guru and super gamer, who has also won the secret affections of another student in Nina’s school, a kid who is willing to do just about anything to please Daphne. The battles of The Chalk Artist are waged on several fronts, from the skirmishes in the worlds of EverWhen and UnderWorld, to the fight for a soul choosing between virtual reality and poetry, to a war of hearts in what turns out to be a complicated love pentagon. Goodman has moved on from the religious quandaries of past novels, but her interest still centers on the moral gray areas of modern life, and as always, she ponders the complications with perceptiveness and heart, asking the questions for which there are no easy answers.— Daniel Goldin
A tender affair and the redemptive power of art are at the core of this compelling novel from National Book Award finalist Allegra Goodman, "a romantic realist who dazzles with wit and] compassion" (The Wall Street Journal). Collin James is young, creative, and unhappy. A college dropout, he waits tables and spends his free time beautifying the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his medium of choice: chalk. Collin's art captivates passersby with its vibrant colors and intricate lines--until the moment he wipes it all away. Nothing in Collin's life is meant to last. Then he meets Nina. . . . The daughter of a tech mogul who is revolutionizing virtual reality, Nina Lazare is trying to give back as a high school teacher--but her students won't listen to her. When Collin enters her world, he inspires her to think bigger. Nina wants to return the favor--even if it means losing him. Against this poignant backdrop, Allegra Goodman paints a tableau of students, neighbors, and colleagues: Diana, a teenage girl trying to make herself invisible; her twin brother, Aidan, who's addicted to the games produced by Nina's father; and Daphne, a viral-marketing trickster who unites them all, for better or worse. Wise, warm, and enchanting, The Chalk Artist is both a finely rendered portrait of modern love and a celebration of all the realms we inhabit: real and imagined, visual and virtual, seemingly independent yet hopelessly tangled. Praise for The Chalk Artist "The virtual world Goodman conjures is as feverishly vivid as it is mysterious and alluring. Not since I pushed my way through C. S. Lewis's fusty mothballed wardrobe and stepped out into the frozen, pine-scented forests of Narnia can I remember being so effectively transported into a viscerally, sometimes terrifyingly plausible alternate universe. . . . This is a novel full of wit and spark. . . . Irresistible and arresting."--The New York Times Book Review "Enjoyably sharp dialogue and convincing portraits of multiple mindsets and terrains . . . One can't help but marvel at how Goodman has captured the atmosphere of this virtual fantasy land so effectively in words."--NPR "Mesmerizing depictions of virtual-reality landscapes of 'Neverwhen' and 'Underworld' make the games' dangerous power over one of Nina's students very real."--People "Goodman's latest combines fantastical flourishes (an imagined video game called 'Underworld') and realistic Cambridge details . . . in a narrative about art and ambition."--The Boston Globe "Allegra Goodman creates suspense where you might least expect to find it."--The Atlantic
About the Author
Allegra Goodman's novels include The Cookbook Collector and Intuition. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories. She is a winner of the Whiting Writer's Award and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.