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
“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
“In Goodman’s inventive and moving new novel, an interlocking set of characters raise provocative questions about art and relationships. . . . The Chalk Artist deftly contends with the commodification of art, the transformations being wrought by technology, and the ephemeral nature of human bonds.”—The National Book Review
“The story is so fluid, traveling through each character’s intensity with ease. Bits of their lives fall apart and come together just as quickly. . . . It hits close to home, reveling in isolation and the ways art can at once save you from it yet push you deeper in. Aidan, Diana, Nina, Collin—they live in all of us, pieces of them glimmering when we’re irrational from passion or desperate from loss. It’s an open, rough peer into our world, and it’s difficult to not turn the page.”—The Michigan Daily
“Can Emily Dickinson compete with World of Warcraft? That’s among the intriguing questions raised by Allegra Goodman in The Chalk Artist.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel