Review: Five Skies

Five Skies
Five Skies by Ron Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something about this novel drew me for a long time. It was on my wish list for over a year, and when I finally bought it, I started it immediately. I don’t know why. It isn’t the kind of book I’d normally be in a rush to read, but for some reason the idea of these three guys coming together and battling personal demons — metaphorical demons, even — really compelled me. Demons. Compel. See the influence of what I usually read? haha

Anyhoo, I loved this book up until the end. The three characters are beautifully drawn and their interaction with one another seems very real, the way these kind of men would talk to each other. Ron Carlson’s writing is lyrical and sweeping and minute and beautiful. Carlson moves from poetic descriptions of the vastness of the Idaho desert to the sparse dialogue in a way that perfectly contrasts the men and their surroundings, while at the same time showing how they fit together perfectly.

I had pretty much forgotten about the title of the book until the phrase “five skies” is used toward the end. Once it came up, though, the light bulb went on and I understood it. It’s a very appropriate title.

My problem with the ending is that it is simply too abrupt. I can’t go into why I think that without spoilers that would just ruin the book, so that’s all that I’ll say. The defining moment happens without anyone actually seeing it, and then the wrap-up comes too soon.

I listened to this as an audio book. As beautiful as Carlson’s prose is, he was not the best choice to narrate the book. It was as though he was trying to keep his voice detached. The narration came across as flat, without a variance of inflection or accent for different characters. It wasn’t as bad as, say Toni Morrison reading Beloved, but the audio would have been more enjoyable with a narrator as skilled in his craft as Carlson is with a keyboard. This is a book I will likely buy in paper to let the voice in my head reread.

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