Occasionally, you start reading a book and think you’re reliving a part of your own youth.
Arturo is an artist. He’s living in Italy with his wife Rosetta. Their children are grown and busy at careers back in the States. Rosetta has also been there, visiting, but she’s now due back to Italy. It’s a big day and evening for Arturo – with the evening will come an exhibition of his paintings. Yes, it’s a small town, but it’s still a big deal.
The story of The Old American Artist by Felipe Adan Lerma happens over the course of a day. But it also happens over the course of more than three decades, stretching back to Arturo’s 20s when he lived in Galveston and was just beginning to discover his art. The story of Arturo’s day, and the story of Arturo’s life, are interspersed to form the story’s narrative.
The reader moves back and forth, ultimately realizing that one story is being told. And it’s a love story, both the love story of Arturo and Rosetta and the love story of Arturo and his painting. It’s a love story that doesn’t run smoothly. The couple face difficulties and separations. Arturo experiences times of artistic drought and doubt. A question even arises whether or not Rosetta is really returning for the big exhibition.
|Felipe Adan Lerma|
The story is a work of fiction, but it is clearly based on Lerma’s life. The part of the story set in Texas is what’s personally familiar to me, with scenes from Galveston and Houston reminding me of my own 20s living in Houston. I know the freeways Arturo drives, and I know the malls where he sometimes sells his work. I even know the “east side” of town where Arturo meets Rosetta; I did volunteer work at a children’s home in that area.
Lerma is himself an artist and photographer, not unlike Arturo. He’s also a poet, a novelist, a short story writer, and a mystery and thriller writer. He’s written a series of works on visiting Paris, including a day-by-day itinerary in how to visit the city in 5 ½ weeks. Like his fictional hero, he’s lived in Texas, Vermont, and Italy. The Old American Artist is the first of three short novels in a series, the second being Rosetta and the third being The Children.
The Old American Artist is a charming delight to read, the story of an older artist who understands his life and the depth of feeling he has for the two great loves of that life – his wife and his art.