My father is a man who has remarkable talents when it comes to tools and schematics for pretty much anything. If it needs to be fixed or built from the ground up, he can envision it, source materials, build and maintain it and make it understood to the less (myself) mechanically inclined.
Having said that, he's likely never finished a novel in his life.
Ron Carlson's Five Skies is a meditative beauty of a book that I'm going to try and spring on him one of these days. He could have been any one of the men in this finely told tale.
The novel rests on three men in Idaho one a ranch hand and two hires who are doing a stunt job constructing a huge ramp on a majestic gorge for the purpose of an Evil Knievel style motorcycle jump. The event is supposed to generate income for a stagnating town.
Darwin Gallegos is grieving the loss of his wife and hires Arthur Key, a stoic man hiding from his past in California; and Ronnie Panelli, a ne'er do well trying to leave behind a life of petty theft and disappointing the few souls close to him.
The job comes together over spring and summer as the wounds of the trio mix with the exacting detail driven work of making a massive structure in and around such unforgiving terrain.
Five Skies is an elemental novel full of the craft of prose and of tool craft, a book in which multiple processes work off of each other to create a healing salve to three difficult lives.
It's an increasing rarity to see the lives of men handled with this degree of care and nuance, and Carlson is on a very short list of writers who pull it off.
It would be wrong to give much away in terms of added plot. Not everything wraps up very well, but that hardly matters. The journey to the last few pages is a warm and beautiful path in a not especially warm and beautiful world.
Five Skies is a short, powerful work from a writer rightly celebrated for his flair with the short story.
The novel will look majestic on film one day provided they let the actors lift the dialogue verbatim form Carlson and stay faithful to the slight love interest in Ronnie's life.
After what seemed like a litany of misfires recently, my spring has been put right by Five Skies.
It's a beautiful novel.
Posted by Dave