Book A Million HeavensAuthor John BrandonPublished July 2012 by McSweeney s, 272 pagesFirst Line The nighttime clouds were slipping across the sky as if summoned Genre Rating Literary fiction 3 5 songs, written by the man you loved who died, filling your mind until you can think of nothing elseReview I am an unabashed John Brandon fan.His Citrus County was one of my favorite books of last year, and I m still looking to get my hands on his Arkansas my library isn t the best at stocking indie published novels, and the price tag is still a little steep for my Kindle, but I m going to break down one of these days I m a terrible impulse buyer when it comes to the Kindle Also, can we just marvel over this cover Gorgeous McSweeney s really excels at cover art I was so looking forward to A Million Heavens, and after a few initial disappointing chapters, I thought, it will get better It just has to hit its stride Unfortunately, it never really did.Set in New Mexico, it follows, in small, somewhat strange chapters, the events that happen to various townsfolk over a bleak winter A young prodigy lies in a coma while his father sits by his bedside, helpless People sit outside in vigil, for various reasons A woman on the run from her life attempts a new start with a man with a checkered past A lost young musician mourns the death of the man she loved, which is proving to also be the death of her muse The mayor of the town tries to find himself through his love for a woman who is possibly off limits And a wolf travels through the town, trying in vain to retain his wildness in a town that s becoming increasingly industrialized and filled with the mystery of humans.The problem I had was that I cared about very few of the stories characters I found myself waiting, somewhat impatiently, for the chapters involving Cecelia, the musician, and her departed love, Reggie who actually gets a voice and a storyline from the beyond They were the two characters who seemed the most fleshed out, whose fates and outcomes I actually cared about The rest of them, although not poorly written Brandon couldn t write clunky prose if he tried the man writes beautifully were somewhat cardboard Uninteresting I was not invested in their stories, in their fates I was reading to see what happened to Cecelia if she would redeem herself, if she would find what she was looking for under the New Mexico stars, in the damage she found herself drawn to cause I was reading to see if Reggie would be able to finally communicate his love for her from beyond, because he d missed his chance when he was on earth.I m not flat out panning the book Brandon s prose is leaps and bounds better than most people s I read, and I will continue to read his work, and eagerly await what he publishes next But after the wonder and mystery and magic of Citrus County, I found myself disappointed by this one I know he s capable of and of better I appreciate that he was trying something different and outside the box, and I like that he s attempting to evolve I just don t think this book worked on all levels Originally published at Insatiable Booksluts I want very badly to give this book 5 stars because so much is done so well within it, but then there s the wolf, and Reggie Honestly, if these two characrer weren t there, getting in the way, and insisting on a direction, I think Brandon s other characters, all so wonderfully crafted and honest, might have taken the story to even better places. On The Top Floor Of A Small Hospital, An Unlikely Piano Prodigy Lies In A Coma, Attended To By His Gruff, Helpless Father Outside The Clinic, A Motley Vigil Assembles Beneath A Reluctant New Mexico Winter Strangers In Search Of Answers, A Brush With The Mystical, Or Just An Escape To Some The Boy Is A Novelty, To Others A Religion Just Beyond This Ragtag Circle Roams A Disconsolate Wolf On His Nightly Rounds, Protecting And Threatening, Learning Too Much And Above Them All, A Would Be Angel Sits Captive In A Holding Cell Of The Afterlife, Finishing The Work He Began On Earth, Writing The Songs That Could Free Him This Unlikely Assortment A Small Town Mayor, A Vengeful Guitarist, All The Unseen Desert Lives Unites To Weave A Persistently Hopeful Story Of Improbable Communion I really liked this novel It fits together like a half dozen character studies It seemed disjointed at first and I had some difficulty fitting the pieces together, but by the last 1 2 I was truly transfixed Awestruck in the last quarter A beautiful, creative narrative about loss and need and connection and the things we are willing to give away I look forward to reading of his writing. Beautifully written and structured Initially it seemed too clever for its own good the wolf perspective chapters were kind of, oh yeah, it s a McSweeny s book, herp but Brandon does such a superb job of tying everything together it s just an impressive piece of work from start to almost finish The ending is a bit perfunctory, though in some ways that s probably for the best, as it may have tried to tie things together too neatly with too much detail about the final fate of coma boy musical prodigy god s mouthpiece Soren The other characters orbiting around Soren, including the wolf, are vivid and compelling.So yeah, go read it Now. I love libraries, and I love librarians who take a chance on books that may not make it to the best seller lists I don t know how they choose, but if anyone would like to enlighten me, I d appreciate it Here in Seattle King County we have great librarians In the past year I ve taken a chance on five books that ended up to be 4 5 star titles All from the library, all off the shelves on a whim lucky me A Million Heavens makes it six.A child prodigy who taps the universal chords for all of 30 seconds falls into a coma The six or so other characters tracked in this novel are all touched by that incident some directly than others, but all within the orbit John Brandon does a terrific job of giving life to each of the characters, and a few others on the periphery This is a book about the good we do to and for one another, even with some bad mixed in, and I think the entire work is a love hymn of sorts It s the most optimistic read of the year for me It also takes place between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and I love the SW as much as I love libraries.It lost a star in its ultimate resolution, but it kept me hanging on to the very end, even if the ending confused me Ah well, on the great whole it s a book to enjoy, and to think about Well worth the read. I m not usually a fan of mystic realism and this parable seemed stretched at times A group of disjointed misfits whose stories entwine with the meanderings and symbolic maulings of a wolf, leave the reader in free fall at times This work was poetry than narrative and while I appreciated the lyrical qualities I became bored with the journey. Slow, a bit bizarre, glad when it ended. I guess I forgot to tell you guys about this one when I proofed it, sorry It s kind of a slower burn than his previous books it felt a little draggy at the beginning, but all of a sudden I was so immersed in it and it just tears through from there on Unsurprisingly, being John Brandon, it s really super sad, but it s a bit plangent than the previous ones, and less cruelly fucked up.Also, jeepers, look how pretty that cover is Oh, McSwy s, you can do no wrong. A Million Heavens drove me crazy How dare the author write such a disjointed narrative and then tie it together so beautifully in the last few pages John Brandon can write beautifully but I wanted a story that I could dig into without keeping a journal of symbolism that I should but don t want to think about.I plodded through narration by a wolf, a gas station owner, a dead guy, a mayor, some guide, Arn, Dannie, Cecilia, Soren s father, and assorted others I know the characterizations were layered to reveal a universal truth I understood the power of dreaming about what they already got Yet, I felt duped as a reader I never knew enough about the characters to really care about them and their long winded, convoluted stories At the center is Soren, a gifted pianist who is in a coma I m fine with that as a catalyst to see how others behave I just found myself perpetually annoyed by the multiple narrators Powell s Indiespensable club chose this book for me I m back to picking my own books I have this compulsion to finish almost always any book that I start so I need to chose very carefully.
Although John Brandon is an MFA graduate of the writing program at Washington University in St Louis, while drafting the novel Arkansas, he worked at a lumber mill, a windshield warehouse, a Coca Cola distributor, and several small factories producing goods made of rubber and plastic In his spare time, he obsesses over Florida Gators football.
- 272 pages
- A Million Heavens
- John Brandon
- 18 March 2019 John Brandon