Monday, December 22, 2014

Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman

Race Across the Sky is the story of two brothers.  The elder, Caleb, was once a well-off successful consultant in New York City who abandoned his life to join a mountain commune dedicated to ultramarathoning.  The younger, Shane, is changing careers from pharmaceutical salesman to biotech salesman as he and his wife are expecting their first child.  Caleb has found solace in severing all ties with the outside world, including his family, to live a regimented life of running with the commune under the leadership of the radical Mack, that is, until a young mother shows up seeking healing for her sick child.  Caleb does the forbidden and falls in love with June, and soon his carefully structured life is crumbling beneath his new love.  When he asks Shane for help finding a cure for June's terminally ill baby, Lily, both brothers embark upon a dangerous journey upon which hinges life and death.  

I had mixed feelings about Race Across the Sky.  On the one hand, Sherman has crafted what I found to be a startlingly unique book delving into two subjects that interest me greatly that haven't turned up in much fiction that I've read.  Sherman's glimpse into the world of ultramarathon running is fascinating.  I've always wondered what makes a runner want to participate in such a punishing sport, and Caleb's life offers an interesting perspective on that and what happens when it's taken to far by Mack and becomes downright cultish.  At the same time, Sherman tackles the field of genetic research, revealing a world where there are diseases that can be cured but never will be according to the laws of capitalism.  Shane's storyline might occasionally wander into the far-fetched, but the exploration and explanation of the biotechnology industry is extremely enlightening.

Debut novelist Sherman does an enviable job of juggling his two unique topics without shorting his characters and without resorting to unrealistic information dumps.  Caleb is a fascinating character, driven to find a life that means something in the wake of 9/11.  Shane is a sympathetic new dad who would do anything to win back the brother he has always idolized.  The only place that Sherman failed, which unfortunately proves to be too memorable in book that is otherwise likeable, is in the quiet moments with his newborn when Sherman attempts to capture the universality of feeling that prompts Shane to risk his career, reputation, and possibly his freedom to help a stranger's baby.  Sherman doesn't quite hit his mark with this crucial point, and it leaves a lot of Shane's story to feel, at best, foolish, and at worst, completely ungenuine.  Despite this failing, Race Against the Sky is a unique, well-paced, and interesting first novel from Derek Sherman, and I'll be looking forward to what he comes up with next.

(I received this book from the publisher via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.)


  1. I think I'm going to add Race Across the Sky to my tbr list. Even with its pitfalls, it sounds interesting.

  2. This sounds like a strong character-driven novel, and I find the field of genetic research fascinating. I may give this one a shot despite its flaws. Great review!