Debra Spark,


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Novel. NY: Four Way Books, 2024.

How does art mirror and shape our lives? Can it transcend the boundaries of time, wealth, and circumstance? With a trio of important paintings missing, Discipline 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 aspects of 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.


“Lively Maine fiction from a fine Maine novelist, one who deserves more attention.” —Kirkus

“Discipline, Debra Spark’s propulsive new novel, held me in its grips from page one. By weaving together three storylines, each linked to a missing masterpiece and spanning nearly a century, Spark illustrates how art connects and transforms us. An immersive, insightful exploration of wealth and poverty, husbands and wives, mothers and sons, love, lies, and loneliness, Discipline is a literary page-turner that stuns with its beauty and grace.”
—Jillian Medoff, author of When We Were Bright and Beautiful 

“Debra Spark is one of our most underrated great writers. Her 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 loves 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 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