© 2011 Kate Christensen
Harry Quirk is a sixty-ish poet whose entire world is changing. In only an afternoon, he has lost a year’s worth of work, his home, and his wife: after discovering that his latest project involved a collection of romantic sonnets addressed to a panel of women other than herself, Harry’s wife Luz destroyed it and tossed him out on the street. The poet is something of a dinosaur even in his chosen profession, but he is reluctant to depend on the charity of his daughter Carina. All Harry really wants to do is go home, but he can’t — for the distance between himself and his wife is greater than a simple misunderstanding. Despite dominating his life for twenty years, his marriage seems to be over, and he must learn to live by and for himself.
Thus begins a fascinating novel with a dominating theme of dependency in relationships, told by a character who is at once sympathetic. Helpless to understand at first, he grows in strength throughout the novel. It helps that Harry isn’t allowed to focus entirely on himself: his son is being sucked into a cult even as his marriage is lying in ruins. I appreciated that Christensen didn’t give a novel like this a conventional ending, but left the door open — Harry and his friends and neighbors are left with room to grow long after the book is done. Strong characters and a fascinating theme made The Astral a highlight of my reading two weeks ago.