MM Kent may have traded his traditional canvas for a word document, but his artist’s eye has still created beauty and life through black words on a white page. His debut novel, A Coward’s Guide to Oil Painting, is a fast-moving story that pauses to describe a market scene or the taste of gumbo, while questioning our nation’s moral compass through a historical, and often humorous, lens.
A Coward’s Guide follows the lives of two characters, Mariah and Cliff, through the months preceding and succeeding a fateful plane crash described in the first chapter. Their shared concern for Blaine, Cliff’s older brother who was involved in the crash, slowly draws them closer together geographically, until a short, chance encounter forms an instant connection. Through a tantalizing, almost unbearable use of dramatic irony, their stories continue to develop in the shadow of their independent searches for Blaine and personal discovery.
Set in the late 1960s, A Coward’s Guide asks important questions about drug use and government in America. Without losing the thread of the narrative, Kent describes the socialist movement in Mexico and its impact on a marijuana famer, adding layers to the tense discussion of foreign involvement in Latin America and the legality of weed. The serious topics and ethical dilemmas of A Coward’s Guide and the amorous undertones combine to produce a captivating novel that appeals to the intellects and romantics alike.
MM Kent’s A Coward’s Guide to Oil Painting is a testament to both his literary talent and considerable skill with a paintbrush. His artful descriptions create clear images of people and places, and above all, his new book is a way for readers to observe the world through the eyes of an artist, in all its multi-layered beauty and contradictions.
Submitted by Grace Martin (age 19)