Thursday, 21 June 2012
The Infinite Tides - Christian Kiefer
Due to be published July 2nd 2012 by Bloomsbury.
Here's what the publishers have to say about it:
"A stunning debut novel about an astronaut's return to earth and the losses he must confront—elegant, moving, and deeply resonant with our times.
The Infinite Tides is a deeply moving, tragicomic story of love, loss, and resilience. It is also an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life, rendering our strengths and weaknesses with great and tender beauty."
And here's what I have to say about it:
Astronaut Keith Corcoran returns to Earth after a successful mission to the International Space Station. His whole life was focused on his goal of becoming an astronaut and as he achieves his life long ambition, tragedy strikes his family. He returns to Earth without the wife and child he left with and has in their place crippling migraines and a general disconnectedness to his surroundings. Intending to prepare the family home for sale, he returns to the empty house at his soon to be ex-wife's bidding to meet with the realtor and finalise details. He finds the house stripped of all possessions apart from one - the giant grey sofa that he hated and his wife insisted on having.
We follow Keith as he comes to terms with the loss of his family and the potential loss of his career. He has to learn new ways of existing and interacting. He is forced into contact with a large, loud, Ukrainian man from his neighbourhood. This forced interaction causes Keith to face, and eventually come to terms with, what he has lost. He finds that he can have an identity other than "Keith Corcoran, Astronaut" and that perhaps he has gained as much as he has lost.
So what did I think of it? Christian Kiefer is a poet. That is very obvious from the outset. Those who know me will know that poetry is not my first love, so initially I found the book quite difficult to get into. I referred to it as the "sad astronaut book" for quite some time. There are passages where one sentence goes on for half a page. Seriously, I have two children, I don't have the attention span for that sort of thing.
But, it grew on me. Like Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett it's a bit of a sleeper. It creeps up on you and gently pulls you into its embrace. I didn't find Keith particularly likeable, I wanted to slap him at points and send him off for an ASD assessment at others. The book is very heavy on mathematics. Keith is a mathematician and he understands the world in terms of numbers and equations. Some of the passages I enjoyed most were to do with fractals and the synaesthesia that Keith and his daughter experience.
Overall I would rate it 3.5/5. If modern American literature combining poetry and mathematics is your thing, then you will probably love it.