If you loved The Dog Stars by Heller, you'll probably really like The Painter. Heller's main character, the painter, Jim Stegner is very much like Hig in that first novel.
A feeling of loss pervades our lives, and many of us use creativity as a way to repair those broken parts of ourselves, or find the lost ones.
Jim Stegner is a fairly successful painter. he is also a bereaved father, a convicted killer, an alcoholic, and a fly fishing addict. He loves animals, women, poetry, and the outdoors. He is not from a privileged background. He is prone to violence when angered by injustice. But he is also intuitive and knows when to hide.
When he comes across a brutal scene unfolding outside of the New Mexico town he lives near, where a man is ruthlessly beating a small horse, he steps forward to intervene. Not because he's a tough guy, but because he's sensitive and every victim he sees reminds him of his murdered teenage daughter, Alce. The decision to take a stand and help this little horse leads to a series of events that he is not all that new to...
Clearly, Mr Heller is a lover of poetry and all things beautiful, whether created by nature or an artist. His fictional characters often seem cookie cutter/stereo-typical: especially the woman, and that might be what I found to be the biggest fault with his writing. However, in his defense, he is writing about a man from a man's point of view. And while there are a few moments where the writing falters (there is one similar scene in The Dog Stars as well), I can forgive Heller that. Because so much of this novel sparkles.