If there is one book I would recommend you to read this year, amongst other books as well, but of course, “The Infinite Tides” by Christian Kiefer would be one of them for sure. I have read debuts so brilliant. Debuts that do not feel like the book is a first by a particular writer and this for sure falls in that category.
The protagonist of this book – Keith Corcoran, who has spent his entire life in the pursuit of becoming an astronaut and becomes one as well, and manages to go into space. He has achieved his goal. His ambition has been lived after being a Princeton Graduate, a Ph.D in Mathematics and being hired by NASA at that. He has managed to make it all with the support of his wife Barbara and his daughter Quinn. He has never been able to spend time with his family and be there for them.
Keith Corcoran is your ambitious man. He wants it all and gets all of it. Sometimes there are also events in life that happen unexpectedly, that almost sock you in the stomach and leave you with no air to breathe and that exactly what happens to Keith. He is in space and receives news of the death of his seventeen year-old daughter. Quinn is the only one he could connect with and now she is not there. His wife Barb cannot stand the grief (and the fact that she is cheating on him) and leaves him, taking everything from their house, barring an ugly sofa, bed, his cul-de-sac, a TV and memories.
Keith returns home three months after the death of his daughter. He is an empty man, who now suffers from migraines. He doesn’t know when he will be called again by NASA and that almost breaks him. Keith is living the life he doesn’t want to and yet he has no choice. He is haunted by memories. For me the part about memories that hit home the most was the fact that he had to watch his daughter’s funeral on a DVD which NASA taped for him, as he was in space at that time.
Amidst his grief (the quiet nature of it is amazingly described by Kiefer), Keith has an affair with a next-door neighbour and makes a new friend in the form of Peter, a Ukrainian immigrant. Peter used to work as a tech assistant in a huge astronomical station in Ukraine. Keith and Peter connect through the telescope owned by Peter. They smoke pot, drink beer and watch the heavens. This is when life unfurls. The unexpected friendship that forms between the two, for me was the basis of the book.
There is a lot more that happens in the book, however not everything can be said through this review. Now to the writing. I loved the writing style. It is raw and fresh (well to a certain extent it did remind me of Richard Yates school of writing, but that is just me, as I love Yates’ works). I was taken into the book from page one, and could not stop reading it. Though I did have problems with the space bits, but then they seemed to blend so well with the larger themes of the book – of void, loss and the chance to live life once again, that it all made sense by the time I was half-way through the book.
Christian has given a unique voice to Keith, by probably not giving him a voice at all – Keith is a character who doesn’t express himself all that much and by his association with Peter, that changes to a large extent in the book, which is a treat to read. There is passion and angst in great measure in the book, no matter how subtle, but the reader can connect to the book on so many levels.
“The Infinite Tides” by Christian Kiefer is a book that I am glad I read and would definitely re-read it. There are lines that break your heart but that is the beauty of a great book. The connection at some level or another. This book is highly recommended by me. Do read it as and when you can.
Here is a trailer of the book: