Monday, November 30, 2020

Around the Sun

  Around the Sun
Author:  Eric Michael Bovim
Publication Information:  Epigraph Publishing. 2020. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1951937384 / 978-1951937386

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It was a quiet line that stretched across the threshold from the airbridge into the fuselage world, business travelers, mainly, eyes fixed into screens and sipping away their liters of glacial water, an idling American engine."

Favorite Quote:  "We are never where we are. It was something she said whenever she saw me on the phone making dinner or reading an email if we were already in a conversation, when my attention was subdivided amount apps and browsers and inboxes and people."

Mark White is a thirty-some year old successful entrepreneur. He has a wife and a son. He flies around the world on business trips. "This was my fifth business trip in two months. If I was not on the phone I was in a meeting and if I was not in a meeting or on the phone I was on a business trip. Whatever was left I called home." In other words, he takes a lot for granted and creates priorities around what he does not take for granted. His love for his family is real, but the choices he makes do not always reflect that love.

The premise of the book is that in the midst of this success, Mark White's wife dies suddenly in an accident. The story of the book is about how Mark copes (or doesn't cope) with his grief and what changes come about in his life as a result of his wife's death. Some of the changes are the result of the staggering grief, and some of the changes are the result of choices and new priorities.

The ending of this book and the redemption found is not really a surprise. I wish the book had perhaps gone somewhere different. This book is more about the journey through the grief to get there. It's the "how" we change in the face of such dire circumstances.

The premise of the book is heart breaking. Unfortunately, I find the telling of the story pull away from that heartbreak for a couple of reasons. First, much time, particularly at the beginning of the book, is spent on Mark's business relationships and deals. While interesting, these details do not go toward the main idea of the book. They emphasize the reasons for this success, delineate his priorities, and accentuate his fall from that success but do not speak to the personal grief that he is going through.

The second reason is the writing style with its very wordy descriptions makes this seem almost as a stream of consciousness expression so focused on the details that the main idea seems to get lost:
  • "A waiter brought menus and waters with less and it seemed utterly ridiculous that, only an hour ago, we'd been trying to beat back a media wildfire for twenty-first-century tech scions, and now we were commiserating beneath color lithographs of nineteenth-century locomotives and wall sconces mounted on elk tusks."
  • "I felt the plane rolling back from the gate; I pushed the LAND button and he came upright and I told him to look outside and watch the man in the neon vest motioning the great vessel backwards and left, and then we heard the engines flush, a low grade hum in the cabin, and I buckled his seatbelt and they played the CEO video, again I watched Athens, London, Vienna, unreal, and he was scissoring his legs in his seat, eating cashews and sucking the soda off the ice cubes, and I looked at the cover of El Pais and began sounding out common expressions in my head so that I could impress him with my sapling Spanish when we landed in Barcelona, where they spoke Catalan."
Whew! I am tired after these long descriptions that cover so much ground in very, very long sentences. I find myself need to take a break, reread, and readjust to where the story is. The bigger point is lost in the middle of all those words. Perhaps, that hyper-focus on details is a manifestation of grief and a need for grounding in facts. Unfortunately, it makes for challenging reading.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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