Friday, April 24, 2009

Five Skies by Ron Carlson

On Wednesday night the George Hail Library book club, Books on Main, met to discuss Five Skies, the 2009 Reading Across Rhode Island (RARI) selection. Five Skies tells the story of three men who are running from their pasts and who find themselves working on a construction project in a remote area of Idaho. As the project progresses, the men begin to reveal themselves to each other and in so doing begin the process of healing from their deep personal wounds.

I must admit that I was not very excited about reading this book. I was disappointed when it was chosen as the RARI book for 2009, because the topic was not in the least interesting to me and I was afraid that all the construction "talk" in the book would bore me. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this book much more than I ever thought I would. Ron Carlson is a masterful writer and I found myself enjoying the plain and simple language that somehow managed to be poetic without being flowery. But, the most amazing thing about this book is the brilliant way in which the story of the three men slowly unfolds over the course of the novel. One of the book club members described it as an "evolving" and that is exactly what it was. And this was such a clever writing technique since it mirrored each characters slow journey of healing that took place throughout the novel. Brilliant! I have never read another book in which the story "evolved" in such a skillful manner. And the construction "talk", while at times a little incomprehensible (to me at least), did not detract at all from the story. Those sections of the book were nicely interspersed with the revealing of the characters' stories (and were easily skimmed through without interfering with the understanding of the story as a whole. Shhh! Don't tell anyone I said that).

Five Skies is a wonderful novel filled with richly developed characters that the reader really comes to care about. It is also a wonderful story of male friendship and how the slow unfolding of those friendships can be a source of healing. This is definitely one of those books I never would have picked up on my own. But it just goes to show, that even in our reading, it can be a good idea to step outside our comfort zone and try something new. You never know when you might be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was!

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