Monday, February 11, 2019

Natural Flights of the Human Mind by Clare Morrall

I have this super duper bad habit.  I buy ebooks like a fiend, not that I don't buy all books like a fiend, but it's a little too easy to fire off $1.99 to Amazon and have a shiny new ebook at your disposal that you ultimately never read because...time.  I love paper books.  99 times out of 100 I will choose to read one of my overabundance of paper books over picking one of the many very exciting titles sitting neglected on my Kindle.  Honestly, it takes my old friend the LibraryThing "choose a random book from your library" function to even get my eyes on an ebook.  Now, if I only I had all my ebooks cataloged there.  That's a work in progress I'll never hope to catch up with.  Happily, though, the randomizer drew one from ebook obscurity for my first read of the year, and I'm glad because it was a winner.

Natural Flights of the Human Mind introduces two damaged, mysterious characters in a seaside village on the English coast.  The first is Peter Straker, a misfit who lives in an abandoned lighthouse that each day grows closer to falling into the turbulent sea.  Despite having no job, Straker lives a regimented life governed by numbers and routine.  Creeping in around the edges of his carefully managed, solitary life are the voices of the 78.  The 78 are the victims of a mysterious accident Straker believes himself to have caused.

Imogen Doody is a school caretaker determined to live life on her own terms after a young marriage that ended in disaster.  Fortified by a powerful anger that gives her the control over her surroundings that she desperately craves, she's willingly walled off from any human companionships, fending of all advances from her family and would-be friends with her prickly attitude.  Fatefully, she comes into some abandoned property from her long lost godfather.  As she struggles to restore the abandoned cottage, Doody crosses paths with the mysterious Straker, and the two make a connection that sets in motion a series of extraordinary events that neither could have anticipated that sets them both on the path to destruction...or redemption.

This books is definitely a slow burn, carefully drawing out the often unlikeable but all-too-sympathetic main characters, peeling off the layers of their stories little by little, revealing their damaging histories, unpacking the troubled pasts that led them to their solitary, broken lives. The seaside village where the two collide, despite its beauty, is rendered starkly, a place of exile for Straker who hopes the whipping coastal winds will one day be powerful enough to sweep him and his lighthouse away.

If you're the sort of person who's ever wondered what the life of somebody foolishly or even unwittingly responsible for tragedy would be like, Natural Flights of the Human mind is a compelling glimpse into that psyche.  I never expected this one to be a page turner, but I found myself rushing toward the finish desperate to see if the troubled characters Morall had brought me to care for would find redemption.  Flights is a haunting and beautiful story of perils of inadequacy and guilt and the power of love and forgiveness.

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