Peggy Payne. Cobalt Blue. Washington: Roundfire Books, 2013.

Cobalt BlueThirty-eight year-old Pinehurst-based artist Andi Branson has hit a low point in her life. Her long-term relationship with her boyfriend Charlie has fizzled out and her creative output is stunted. Generating brilliant, original works isn’t exactly easy when you’re stuck pumping out commercial commissions. The readers first meet Andie pitching herself to be hired on a sports-themed mural for a country club. Andie isn’t thrilled about the prospect of selling her work to an executive board, and her spirits are further dampened when she discovers that her mural will be “branded” for cocktail napkins and towels and all the other disposable, retail-churning “little niceties.” As the board members gather around and critique her portfolio, Andi deplores the direction of her career and life.

Ultimately, the board hires her to create the mural, and the head of the board, Tripp, propositions Andie for another, secretive request. He asks Andie to paint a portrait of U.S. senator, Billy Sylvester. Sylvester is an ultraconservative and racist politician. The senator intends to announce his resignation from the Senate and wishes for a portrait to symbolize his professional legacy. At first, the offer flummoxes Andie. She does not agree with Sylvester’s politics, but the hefty commission of $100,000 finally wins her over. Not surprisingly, Andie clashes with the senator.

As she begins to work on the projects, Andie experiences a strange new sensation. She cannot identify the new force or its origin, but it unleashes carnal desires and creative inspiration. However, Andie cannot control this new compulsion, which she eventually learns is called kundalini rising. Her lack of restraint frightens her and sends her on a journey of discipline and enlightenment to harness this new source of untamed energy and power. Andie turns first to traditional methods of therapy and then, when unsatisfied with the results, to less trod approaches, notably visits to a tarot card reader and a voodoo priestess in New Orleans. Novelist Peggy Payne bravely explores foreign concepts like kundalini and tantric enlightenment with strong descriptive skill. Readers should be prepared for explicit instances of sexuality in this novel of spiritual and sensual awakening.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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