Select one of the keywords
Wide Blue Yonder    by Jean Thompson order for
Wide Blue Yonder
by Jean Thompson
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2001 (2001)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

Springfield, 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 'Local Forecast.'

Sorry 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.

Now 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.

Thompson, 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.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews