Wide Blue Yonder
Simon & Schuster, 2001 (2001)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by David Pitt
pringfield, Illinois. Summer, 1999. A storm is brewing - well, a few storms, if you want to get metaphorical about it. Uncle Harvey, who apparently used to be a pretty normal guy, has lately found the bend in the road, and gone briskly around it. He is, to use a very gentle term, not golfing with a full set of clubs. Uncle Harvey believes, and this is a little hard to explain in just a few words, that he is ... connected, I suppose, with the Weather Channel - that he is, in fact, their '
orry if that sounds vague: Thompson handles this, and the whole novel, in a very subtle way, building layer upon layer of weirdness until we get a clear picture of this unusual assortment of people she's created. The point is, all Harvey knows, or apparently understands, is the Weather Channel. When you can get him to utter a coherent sentence, it's usually a weather forecast. That's Uncle Harvey: a sweetheart, but living on another intellectual plane.
ow here's his niece, Josie, a teenager, a young girl with - according to her mother, Elaine - some serious behavioral problems. Josie and Uncle Harvey will come together later in the novel, will unite to defeat a villain and change Harvey's life forever. We also have Rolondo, a rapscallion from L.A. who will wander into the lives of some of our new friends; he's a fascinating character, too. And can we forget Elaine, Josie's mom, whose efficiency in the business world conceals a desperate longing in her heart? I think not.
hompson, who was nominated for a 1999 National Book Award for a collection of short fiction (
Who Do You Love
), writes delicately, letting the characters build themselves right before of our eyes. We come to like them, to care about them - not because Thompson requires us to, but because of who they are, and who they want to be. The novel's conclusion is emotionally satisfying, but not in a schmaltzy way. The novel reminds me a little of Ben Sherwood's
The Man Who Ate the 747
: it keeps you chuckling, until it sneaks up and smacks you with a serious moment or two. I liked it very much.
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