ECW Press; 10/1/2013
Trade Paperback, 240 pages
After suffering an unbearable loss, a man takes a road trip in an attempt to find solace and encounters beauty, brutality, and beguiling characters along the way in this darkly thrilling novel. Grieving the deaths of his wife and infant daughter, Nathan Soderquist decides to journey westward across the continent, documenting the ever-changing sky in brief entries of ravishing poetry. Desperately lonely and with nothing left to lose, he drives through vacant landscapes committing acts of violence, nobility, cowardice, and bravery, all the while trying to save the world from evil. After his recklessness leads to an accident that leaves his body broken, he heals and continues his journey on bicycle before that is taken from him as well. Bent on revenge he sets out again on foot, and a violent midnight confrontation puts him on a path that could lead to either destruction or redemption.
The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen is an eminently melancholy novel. Nathan Soderquist is on a quest across Canada - a quest wrought from pain and memories. After his wife and 18 month-old daughter are killed in an accident, Nathan is trying to escape from the pain and the memories by traveling. Nathan is filled with anger over his loss and seems bent on self-destruction. While he is driving, living a nomadic existence, he's also seemingly seeking out confrontations and fights. He is drinking too much. But he is also writing poetic descriptions of the ever-changing weather.
The escalating anger Nathan displays and the increasing violence he demonstrates cannot release him from his memories or his culpability. Nathan feels inconsolable and he is seeking out punishment, but what he really wants is atonement for the role he played in his wife and child's death. While he meets several people along the way and we know that there are others who would help him, Nathan is bent on self-destruction and that makes his acts distressing to follow at times. He actively runs away from any help or consolation.
While the protagonist may not be able to control himself, Panhuyzen’s prowess with language elevates this sombre, distressing novel above the ordinary. The Sky Manifest is not an easy novel to read. The raw violence and emotions can be overwhelming. highly recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of ECW Press via Netgalley for review purposes.