I'll be honest, one of the first things that drew me to Allegra Goodman's The Chalk Artist was the title and cover design. As an art teacher and lover of all things art related, I was instantly curious and looked up Goodman's website online to learn more. I've always been intrigued by chalk artists, the very fact that their art is erasable and impermanent. One of my favorite things to do in September is visit Cleveland's chalk festival at the Cleveland Art Museum. What the artists are able to create with just a piece of cement and their box of chalk is truly amazing.
The Chalk Artist is about one such artist, Collin, who prides himself on being able to draw virtually anything but whose passion lies in a box of chalk and a blackboard. Nina, a first year teacher struggling to make an impact on her high school English students any way she can, is drawn to Collin as much as he is to her and thus their romance begins. Along side their story is Aiden, one of Nina's students who has become lost in the world of internet multiplayer gaming and struggles to remember what the "real" world is.
Something about each of these characters, as well as Aiden's twin sister, really got under my skin. I felt like Goodman did something brilliant with their stories, connecting them in such small and then ultimately large ways to create a larger and more realistic emotional story. One of how art influences our lives, makes us better humans to ourselves and each other. Whether that art is a poem, a drawing sketched on a napkin, an intricate digital world. How it creates a connection between people or within us, connecting bits of ourselves into something greater.
I highly recommend this book to you if you enjoy stories where characters are struggling to find themselves and each other, with multiple character viewpoints and a very real presence in today's world. I found the scenes where Aiden struggles with his life in the multiplayer game and his "real" life eyeopening. I've read articles about teenagers struggling with gaming worlds and being able to move forward into responsibility, college, jobs etc. This particular part of the story really stuck with me.
Published by Random House