Jim Murphy has had an adventurous life, wearing many cloaks (symbolic representations of his self-presentation tot he world) along the way. The story weaves back and forth from his childhood in Irvine, California in the 80s, to a trip around the world with a friend in the 90s, to a stay in Indonesia in 2014, and back again, until it seems almost timeless in its presentation. In the process, he meets, befriends, and sometimes falls in love with a variety of characters, with agendas and cloaks of their own.
This isn’t a book to read if you want an easy, straightforward tale that adheres to orderly rules about plot, conflict, and resolution. However, it is, nonetheless, a lovely read, vividly descriptive and richly lyrical, almost a prose poem in book form. Murphy’s spiritual quest wanders and meanders, but it is never cold or clinical, and even the most painful moments contain an element of beauty. The other characters are all seen through Murphy’s eyes, and the women in particular tend to suffer from a bit of over-romanticization, but on the other hand, we also get a dose of his conviction that every human person is interesting in their own way, has a personality, quirks, and a story to tell.
The places Murphy visits are, for the most part, beautiful settings in and of themselves, and that the author has a gift for making a scene come to life with simple, almost musical phrases, immediate, clear and sensual, whether he’s describing the Egyptian pyramids turning gold in the rising sun or the smooth, coordinated perfection of a speed skater finding his rhythm. There’s a lot of debate and argument in this book, too, both internal and external, as ideas are generated, tested, and evaluated over Murphy’s lifetime. In fact, the book is essentially a philosophical debate about identity, society, the self and relationships, in which the reader is invited to participate, told in a vigorous emotional style that can veer from calmly meditative to fiercely confrontational and back in the span of a paragraph.
CONFESSIONS OF A CLOAK ARTIST is for readers who enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and who revel in exploring both interior and external worlds.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader