paper • 316 pages • 19.95
ISBN: 978-1-954245-98-3
eISBN: 978-1-954245-99-0
March 2024 • Fiction


Debra Spark

How does art mirror and shape our lives? Can it transcend the boundaries of time, wealth, and circumstance? Debra Spark-whose previous work the Washington Post described as “richly imaginative” and “real world magic”-explores these themes in her new novel Discipline. With a trio of important paintings missing, the book weaves together three narratives that span almost a century. From an inhumane boarding school in Maine in the late 1970s to a contemporary Boston art appraiser struggling with raising a teen to the long-lost love letters between a painter and his wife, Discipline is a propulsive literary mystery about family strife and devotion, ambition and authorship, and the abiding and mysterious power of art.

Inspired by the life and family of Walt Kuhn (the painter responsible for the 1913 Armory Show that introduced Americans to modernism) and the scandal-ridden Elan boarding school that was forced to shut down in 2011, this richly drawn, suspenseful novel shows Spark at her most masterful.

from Discipline

Something had gone wrong.

Gracie Thomas had arrived on the island just when she said she would, on the final ferry of the day, the winter light dimming over the course of the two-hour journey east, and she too preoccupied to enjoy the drama of the ocean, the air too bitterly cold for standing on deck, the filthy windows cloudy with condensation. A more avid lover of the great outdoors would have braved the temperatures, but when Gracie had to choose between the natural world and comfort, she opted for the latter. Camping or a flush toilet? The world’s greatest invention wins in a landslide!

By late afternoon, the question of the view was moot anyway, the day dark as midnight. Gracie’s mind was back in Boston, instead of on the Atlantic, her focus Jeremy, her 16-year-old son, the child whom she’d waited and waited and waited for, through one, two, three, four miscarriages, the one who was so, so, so wanted.

He had run away from home.

Praise from Kate Christensen
Praise from Suzanne Berne
Praise from Liam Callanan

Debra Spark’s new novel brilliantly concerns itself with the intersection of art and relationships, the ways in which works of art live in the world as lightning rods for human passion, rage, love, and loneliness, and the ways in which this dynamic quality of art shapes the lives of people who come into intense contact with it. Discipline is one of those rare books I want to tell everyone to read immediately.

—Kate Christensen, Author of Welcome Home, Stranger

A wonderfully intricate, suspenseful-at times harrowing-and provocative novel about how a trio of eerily powerful paintings alter the lives of a host of wildly different people. Discipline is the best kind of mystery: full of surprising turns, compelling characters, and web-like connections slowly revealed over time. The meditations on art add to the vibrant complexity. Debra Spark is a terrific writer.

—Suzanne Berne, Author of The Blue Window

Paced like a mystery-thriller, Discipline is a marvel to behold: its twisty plot and richly detailed characters never take a false step in this fascinating exploration of art and trauma and what happens when the legacies of each intersect. Meticulously researched and impeccably written, this is a masterful novel written by a truly gifted artist. I was almost cheering by the end.

—Liam Callanan, Author of When in Rome